Royal British Legion branch closing after 90 years serving war heroes

(L-R) Legion members John Chamberlain and Don Littlechild, with Orwell RBL standard bearer Colin Cha

(L-R) Legion members John Chamberlain and Don Littlechild, with Orwell RBL standard bearer Colin Charter and Patrick Parkinson at the Laying Up ceremony - Credit: Archant

A ROYAL British Legion branch which has served war veterans in two villages for more than 90 years has had to close after membership dwindled.

The men’s branch of the Melbourn and Meldreth Royal British Legion held an emotional final parade in Melbourn before a Laying Up ceremony at All Saints’ Church, Melbourn, where its Standard will now reside.

Legion members have been running a year-long campaign to try to attract new blood to the group, but have been forced to admit defeat.

Patrick Parkinson, outgoing chairman of the group, said: “Myself and one of the other officers were planning to stand down, and there wasn’t anyone to take over.

“None of us are getting any younger – I’m over 80 and our oldest member is 92 – and although we approached a few people who we thought might want to take it on, they all had their reasons why they couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

“I was quite upset about handing the Standard over because we finally put an end to something that has been going for so many years.”

Mr Parkinson, a former member of the Northamptonshire Regiment, has been part of the legion in Melbourn and Meldreth for eight years. He added that some members may now join legions in neighbouring villages, though many were unable to travel far for health reasons.

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He said: “The legion does a lot of good work for servicemen and their families. The thing is now there are so many other groups, like Help for Heroes, who support the younger soldiers.”

The Rev Andrew O’Brien, vicar at All Saints’ Church, took part in the Laying Up ceremony.

He said: “We had two minutes’ silence, as we would on Remembrance Day, then the Standard was laid on the altar. It will remain in the church now, and will be kept on behalf of the nation really.

“It is a shame to see the Legion branch close because they do a lot of good, but the problem is a lot of their members are getting older.”

The women’s branch of the Melbourn and Meldreth British Legion remains active in the villages.

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