Royal British Legion branch in Henlow faces closure in charity's centenary year if more volunteers don't come forward

'It's ongoing support we offer to servicemen and women - Afghanistan, Iraq, anyone in the armed forces'

Henlow Royal British Legion is desperately appealing for new members to join its branch committee - or fears it may have to close down.

As the national war veterans' charity celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, the group is hoping that people step forward to ensure it can continue.

But time is ticking - as it says it will need to make a decision about its future at its AGM on October 14, as it struggles to attract more members.

Left: Henlow war memorial and wreaths. The stones were decorated by Henlow Brownies. Top right: a parade in 1956, the year the Henlow branch was founded. Bottom left: the last parade Henlow Royal British Legion was able to hold before the pandemic. The ATC are in the lead for the parade from the War Memorial to the Church. Photos: Henlow Royal British Legion.

The Henlow branch was set up in 1956 and over the years it has supported the armed forces community in many ways - both financially and emotionally - while it helps to organise the Poppy Appeal, as well as the Remembrance Day Parade in conjunction with Henlow Parish Council.

Carol Turff, branch secretary and membership secretary, said: "Henlow has always been a very active branch organising many social events to raise money for the Poppy Appeal and taking a leading role in the annual Henlow Remembrance Day Parade. Even during the pandemic the branch raised over £5,000.

"However, our membership is going down and we are struggling to attract younger people. We've always been a very strong Royal British Legion branch and sadly our membership is getting older. We lose three or four per year, and if we're lucky, get one new member to replace them.

"One gentlemen on the committee was a founder member in 1956, and he's just put himself forward to stay on for a year.

"We're like a family, but we're getting smaller. We are struggling the form a committee necessary for the branch to continue."

The branch organises activities for members including meals out, bingo and tea, and attends fetes, too, while during the lockdown, it organised newsletters to help combat feelings of isolation.

It also looks after its members if they are ill, sending them a card and helping financially from a small budget, such as providing equipment.

Meanwhile, the branch is always thrilled by schools, cafes and businesses which support their annual poppy appeal in Langford, Henlow and Lower Stondon, as well as the community support for Remembrance Day - "we have about 200 people at our little war memorial".

Carol said: "I think young people tend to look upon it as an older person's charity. If we can encourage younger people into it, then it will become relevant to young people.

"They learn about the wars and sacrifices people made and pay their respects at the memorial service, but outside of that we need to do a lot of work to encourage them to become involved.

"One of our members suggested going into schools a bit more and talking to children who can then take it home to their parents.

"We need to get over that it's not just World War One and World War Two, it's ongoing support we offer to servicemen and women - Afghanistan, Iraq, anyone in the armed forces."

She added: "I think young people like to pay respects to what the Royal British Legion stands for and wear their poppies, but they are not sure what else we do, helping our members and supporting them - sometimes just a visit if they need one."

Anyone can join the Royal British Legion, male or female, and you do not need a military past. The Royal British Legion also have a number of vacancies on its branch committee.

Meetings are held 11 times a year on the third Thursday of each month. The branch AGM is on October 14 at Henlow Pavilion. All members are welcome, and anybody can attend to see what it's like, even if you are not a member.

If you are interested, please contact Carol on 07855 652088 or email her on [email protected] to find out how you can help support your local community through the Royal British Legion.

Carol said: "We would welcome anyone to attend and we very much look forward to welcoming you to our branch."