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THE HISTORY OF THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION
The British Legion was founded in 1921 to replace four earlier ex-servicemen's organizations—the Comrades of the Great War, the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers, and the Officers' Association. The Legion was granted a royal charter in 1925. There were about 3,500 branches in the 1980s, some of them overseas. The Legion organizes the annual Poppy Appeal to raise money for needy members.
The Seaford branch of The Royal British Legion originated in 1919, starting life as a branch of the Comrades of the Great War. Servicemen returning to Seaford banded together to form a local branch of the Comrades. Their early meetings were held in local Pubs and no clear records remain, just memories handed down from fathers to sons. Seaford Residents had set up a fund for ex-Servicemen and with this money the Comrades were able to purchase their first headquarters at No. 9 Pelham Place.
In the Country, the War and those who fought it were receding into the background, individual voices in and out of Parliament were calling for justice and help for the sick and wounded men. One such voice, The Earl Haig had a vision of a Unified Association fighting for the rights of both ex-servicemen and those men still serving.
On 14th May 1921 this vision reached fulfillment when representatives of ex-Service Associations from all over the Country met in the Queen’s Hall, London.
The “Comrades” in Seaford decided to join and sent in their application in June 1921 and was formally registered as the Seaford Branch of the British Legion on 2nd August 1921. Locally the main purpose of the Legion was to co-ordinate the help available to ex-servicemen from the various organisations such as Friendly Societies and Ancient Orders and to collect funds for their own benevolence. Remember this was a time of high unemployment and no state benefits; for the lucky ones a small pension which ended after seven years.
Through the Legion men were assisted to establish small businesses, the Government reviewed pensions for those permanently disabled, and the Legion itself set up and financed Rehabilitation and Training Schemes. As the years went by other local ex-service groups were absorbed into the British Legion.
To the general public the British Legion probably means Remembrance Day. Until 1970 this was marked in Seaford by a march of members as well as a public Service at the War Memorial. and the branch usually held a private ceremony of Remembrance on the 10th November at the Memorial, then sited in Dane Road.
The Club developed side by side with the Branch, serving to preserve and promote that Comrade-ship which has always been a strong facet of the British Legion.
In 1938 the adjoining premises of 10, Pelham Place had been purchased but had been requisitioned in 1939, by the Seaford Council for evacuees. Early in 1940 this house was handed back but in 1942 both Houses were badly damaged during an air raid.
The War over, the Legion’s numbers were increased by a new generation of returning servicemen with their own problems. The British Legion added its voice to the call for a National Social Service; this came to fruition in April 1948 with the National Health Service and the men returning from the Second World War benefited from the efforts of the Legion between the Wars.
Here in Seaford the Legion moved to New Headquarters in Claremont Road, formally Pelham House Girls School, now known as Legion House.
Since its move in 1946 the Legion has gone from strength to strength, the branch continues to support centrally funded schemes for ex-Service personnel and to aid any deserving cases brought to their notice locally. The Club remains the centre of social life and comradeship for members and their families
FURTHER READING ----- KEEPING FAITH The History of The Royal British Legion ---- By BRIAN HARDING Published by LEO COOPER 2001 , South Yorkshire.