Last month we looked at the early history of the British Legion and considered one of the lapel badges issued to members in its formative years (see here). When an ex-serviceman joined the legion, in addition to the badge, he was presented with a membership card. This card was a small piece of folded cardboard, blue on the outside with the Legion’s crest embossed into the cover in gold:Inside was space for the member’s name and details of his branch and date of joining. A shortened version of the Legion’s ‘principles and policy’ was also printed here:This particular card was issued to a J Robinson of 60 Turncroft Lane Stockport in September 1930 by the Stockport South branch. Mr Robinson clearly renewed his membership in April 1931 as there is an accompanying receipt for his membership fee that allowed him to remain a member until the end of December 1931:Sadly I have been unable to find out anything about Heaviley house in Stockport and it seems likely that the British legion no longer uses this building for its social club functions today.
In 1923 the prince of Wales gave a speech to the British Legion conference that set out the work the organisation was doing at that time and their desire to consolidate all the service charities under their aegis:
We have well over 2000 branches of the Legion in this country, and I feel that the time has come to consolidate our position and that any extension of the Legion should be in the direction of strengthening existing branches and bringing in and rounding up as many ex-service clubs and organisations outside ourselves as possible. In this way the British Legion will become the real means of helping our ex-service men and their dependents and it will be the safeguard of the widows and orphans of those who fell.
FOCUS OF BRITISH LIFE
Our branches in the big foreign cities are fast becoming the focus of British life and enterprise where they happen to be. They form very valuable centres of enterprise and a splendid jumping off place for the re-establishment of British trade throughout the world.
I am not sorry to enlarge on the subject which has been much talked about- and that is the spirit of comradeship. We all know that that spirit pervaded all of us Britishers during the Great War. Without that spirit our Empire would not be what it is today and despite what some people think and some people say, I maintain that that spirit is alive in our country today…
Earl Haig also spoke in a far more political tone than one would get from the British Legion today but reflecting many of the principles set out on members’ membership cards:
Hold fast to the great principles of the Legion, ‘Loyalty to the King and country’- and that implies unwavering opposition to the Bolshies. They are out to get us out root and branch and destroy our homes.
‘Loyalty to one another’ the other great principle of the Legion, means looking after our old comrades who have fallen on evil days and are in less fortunate circumstances than we are. And always remember that in working for the British Legion you are not only helping yourselves and your comrades but helping Old England.