Paignton's Royal British Legion celebrates centenary year and goes from strength to strength

Torbay Weekly

100 years young and still going strong.

At the end of the first world war veterans and relatives of those killed or wounded during that great conflict were represented by four different organisations, which often resulted in the duplication and dilution of their efforts. Then, on May 15, 1921 the British Legion was born.
One month later; on June 20,1921, the Paignton branch of the British Legion was formed.

It has never looked back with the branch continuing to support veterans, serving personnel and their families.
Alongside the main branch, Paignton had, until recently, a very active Women’s Section, which it looks forward to being able to reactivate if sufficient ladies are interested.
From the start in 1921 it was clear that the branch, as well as supporting the annual Poppy appeals and remembrance services, was very active in local sporting and gardening competitions, with members having major success in both disciplines.
When, in 1936, Princess Helena Victoria visited Torquay and Paignton, the branch was in attendance.
The branch hosted the Annual Devon County British Legion Rally in 1950, held for the first time in Paignton. There were 6,000 plus veterans, with over 200 standards, on parade.
Over the years it has had various 'homes' and it was fortunate in having its own club - the last in Courtland Road, Paignton, which was its base for nearly 30 years.
At the end of the century both branch and club were very active and busy but as it began the new millennium the club ran into financial difficulties, although the branch itself was thriving.  Sadly, with the demise of the club the branch attendance began to fall away, until it reached a seriously low level of membership.
With the hard work of a few dedicated members in 2001 the branch started to turn its fortunes around. Focusing on the Poppy Appeal the branch started to recruit new members and found a new permanent meeting place at the Paignton Conservative Club in Palace Avenue, where it now holds regular meetings, on the first Wednesday of the month.
Growing from strength to strength, in 2012 it managed to get money from RBL HQ from the sale of its old building. With this, the branch bought a shop, renovated it and it is now its HQ, store and drop in centre.

In 2018, along with other branches, from all over the country, it sent representatives to GP90 (Great Pilgrimage 90) at Ypres, Belgium; recreating the original Great Pilgrimage of 1928.
In its centenary year, it has have formed a new and very energetic garden group who have revitalised the flower beds outside its office.

The branch now has over 130 members and continues to grow, taking part in services to remember all conflicts as well as a range of fundraising events.
Under President Major Ron Goodwin, the current committee comprises; officers, Gerard Sarsfield, Chairman; Donna Fortune, Secretary and George (Tony) Heasman; Treasurer.  Tony also doubles as the branch’s representative for matters of its beneficiary’s welfare.  The other committee members are Don McKechnie (Poppy Appeal Organiser), Clare Hanon, John Michel, Colin Fortune, Tony Mordaunt (Chair of the Gardening Group), Eddie Jones (Standard bearer) and Lionel Hawkes.
The office telephone number is 01803 555838, equipped with an answer phone, should any serving or ex-members of our armed forces wish to make contact.
The branch is always ready to welcome new members and despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to have served in the armed forces to become a member of the Royal British Legion.