Royal British Legion Henlow branch announces closure after 65 years

'Looking back the branch has been very successful and vibrant in playing its part in the community'

By Joanna Gravett
Thursday, 4th November 2021, 1:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:18 pm

The Royal British Legion Henlow Branch has been forced to close - because it was unable to fill its committee posts.

In last month's Chronicle, an appeal was published calling for new members, and although some people came forward, they weren't able to dedicate their time to the positions.

The branch is now in the process of winding down and has asked its members to join another local Legion group of their choice.

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 right: 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.

However, despite the devastating news, the branch would like to take the opportunity to celebrate its achievements and say thank you to the community.

Carol Turff, Henlow branch secretary and membership secretary, said: "Sadly, we are going to have to close. We didn't get anybody to fill the actual posts on the committee, and without the committee, we can't have a branch.

"It's been quite emotional for our members; a lot of them have been with the branch for more years than they care to admit to. We have had some really nice messages thanking the committee and saying that for years it was such a vibrant branch. They understand why we can't continue and we will be 'sadly missed'.

"It's difficult to get people to commit but I think one day it [the initiative] will be replaced by something else..."

Carol would like to stress that the Henlow Poppy Appeal will still continue as that has always been "slightly independent" from the branch, while Henlow Parish Council will organise the Remembrance Day Parade and has taken on full responsibility for the event.

The Henlow Royal British Legion branch has also taken time to reflect on its achievements since it formed in 1956.

Carol told the Chronicle: "Looking back the branch has been very successful and vibrant in playing its part in the community.

"Over the years we have held many events, open to everyone, including coffee mornings, quizzes, bingo, and teas and dances with entertainment. We have attended many local fetes and events to promote the Royal British Legion and to raise money for the Poppy Appeal."

In 2017 the branch won the Royal British Legion Bedfordshire Efficiency Award, which is based in part on membership numbers, and amounts raised locally for the Poppy Appeal and branch events.

Meanwhile, in 2018 its Poppy Appeal organiser, Margaret Major, was invited to attend the Remembrance Day Service in Westminster Abbey.

Carol said: "This was in recognition of all the hard work she does raising funds for the Poppy Appeal locally. Margaret attended with her husband, Martin, who has been our branch treasurer for a number of years. Henlow Branch had regularly collected around £9,000 locally for the Poppy Appeal prior to the pandemic.

"Also, in 2018, the Henlow Branch Standard was presented at The Great Pilgrimage at Ypres in Belgium, along with over 1000 other standards at a ceremony at the Menin Gate, and a poppy wreath was laid on behalf of our community.

"Our Branch Standard has also been paraded at many local and county events including the Henlow and RAF Henlow Remembrance Day Parades and funerals of ex service personnel and RBL Members."

In 2019 one of its founder members of the branch, Mr Victor Beaumont, was awarded Lifetime Membership in recognition of his service. Over the years he held a number of roles within the branch and would have been happy to continue as a branch committee member had a new committee been formed.

Carol added: "The branch always played a major role in organising the Henlow Remembrance Day Parade, however, I am pleased to say that Henlow Parish Council have now taken on full responsibility for the parade so that this can continue in its normal format.

"Also on a positive note, although the branch will no longer exist, the Poppy Appeal organiser for Henlow, Langford and Lower Stondon is independent from the committee and will continue. Margaret Major, our current Poppy Appeal organiser is retiring this year but we have been extremely lucky to have Dawne Brent agree to take over the role.

"Therefore, Dawne will continue to engage with local schools, clubs and businesses to provide all their Poppy Appeal needs."

Henlow branch chairman, Bert Schrier, would like to express his very sincere thanks to all those who have served on the committee over the lifetime of the branch and to all those who have supported branch activities and the branch in general, "without whose help we could not have been the branch we have been".