Legion offers vital lifeline to many

NBENLM110409B2 - Belper British Legion coffee morning. from left Chairman Kevin Parkin, Pauline Hampson, tresurer Eric Wilkinson and secretery Kath Woodward
NBENLM110409B2 - Belper British Legion coffee morning. from left Chairman Kevin Parkin, Pauline Hampson, tresurer Eric Wilkinson and secretery Kath Woodward
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the image of elderly men swilling beer and playing dominoes is as far away from what really goes on at the Royal British Legion in Belper as you can get.

Poppy appeal organiser Nigel Winn was keen to point this out as the organisation celebrates its 90th year.

Belper Royal British legion womens section.

Belper Royal British legion womens section.

The Legion, whose headquarters locally is on Strutt Street, is split into three sections – branch, club and women’s.

Nigel said: “The branch is the charity part where we look after the welfare of ex-service people. The club is the social side, where things like entertainment and pool teams are sorted out.

“And the women’s section is both fundraising and social.

“We all work together with the aim of having a bit of fun, while also looking after the ex-service people in Belper.

“The image of the Legion is that it is an old working man’s club. It isn’t. It is a social club for all ages and from all walks of life.

“The club has so many different events for all ages.”

The Legion, nationally, is celebrating its 90th year, having formed in 1921.

It provides welfare to all the armed forces family – serving, ex-service and their dependants. It campaigns on issues affecting service people, runs the annual Poppy Appeal and is one of the UK’s largest membership organisations.

In Belper, the Legion is using the 90th anniversary to do two things.

Nigel said: “It is about raising money, and also raising awareness of what we do in Belper, so people know who to contact if they need any welfare help.”

The Legion has things lined up in the near future to celebrate the 90th year.

On Sunday, May 8, at their Strutt Street HQ there is a 1940s-themed event, with food, music and decor from that decade. Then, on the weekend of June 11 and 12, the Legion will have a stall at the Belper Steam Fair.

Nigel explained what the 90th year meant to the Legion in Belper. He said: “One, it’s about celebrating one of the oldest clubs in Belper, and two, it’s about looking forward and involving new people for the next 90 years.”

Two Legion stalwarts are Peter Smedley, who is chairman of the branch section, and Joan Sladden, who is chairman of the women’s section.

Joan, 73, has been involved with the Legion since the age of 14. Her father, William Bryan Land, was an integral part of the Milford British Legion.

She started selling poppies in Milford at 14, and was named Legion Queen in the village at the same age.

On the women’s section, Joan, who has been chairman for five years, said: “It is very important because we help to raise funds for widows and children.”

Peter, 77, became involved with the Legion after leaving the services at the age of 23. He said of the 90th anniversary: “It’s massive.”