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The first Poppy Day was held in Britain on 11 November 1921 and since then the Poppy Appeal has become a key annual appeal in the nation's calendar.

The Royal British Legion is the UK's leading charity safeguarding the welfare, interests and memory of those who have served in the Armed Forces and their dependants. It provides financial, social and emotional support to millions and its benevolence spans all age groups from the oldest to the very young.

It was in 1921 that the British Legion was founded by Field Marshall Earl Haigh. The organisations purpose was to help needy ex-servicemen financially and to restore their self respect by providing employment.

The Rishton branch, like the British Legion, came into being a few years after the 1st Great War, chiefly through the enthusiasm of Mr. Arthur Jackson, who was one of the original five founders members of the British Legion itself.

The inaugural meeting was held in a room in Mary Street, next door to the shop of the printers at 77 High Street, at which Mr. Jackson was elected the First President of the Rishton Branch, and Mr. J. H. Hothersall J. P., was elected first Chairman of the Benevolent Committee. Mr. Jas Barnes was appointed Secretary, and the ex-servicemen present were enrolled as founder members of the Branch. Subsequent branch meetings were held in the Primitive Methodist School in School Street, and later still in the Weavers Union Offices.

The prime motive behind this association of ex-service men was the desire to preserve that sense of enduring comradeship among the ranks of those who served, which was one of the few fine that emerged from the horror and ruin of war.

Its further purpose was the alleviation of hardship and distress among its less fortunate brethren when the insidious effects of the rigours and privations of war became increasingly apparent.

At a national level the Legion was making representations to Parliament for more adequate pensions, for hospital treatment, after care and training for the disabled. From its own resources derived from public subscription, it provided legion homes, convalescent treatment, work in its own factories for the permanently disabled, and a variety of schemes to assist the ex-servicemen to take up his place again in civilian life.

Every year the legion makes its appeal to the nation, on or about Armistice Day - 11th November - although now termed Thanksgiving day, when branches throughout the Country parade to pay tribute to the memory of the fallen.

The Rishton Branch was reformed in April 1938, the Rev Ira W. Brown as Chairman and Mr. W. R. Cartledge as Vice Chairman. During the years of the 2nd World War and beyond, the local branch has served the aims of the legion faithfully and well.

The burden of benevolent and pensions works falls most heavily upon the local secretary. During the greater part of the period 38 - 51 this burden was upon Councillor J. W. Banks, who in 1950 received the legions coveted Certificate of Merit for his splendid record of service. His work was divided after this between Mr. J. C. Heaton and Mr. T. Forrest.

In October 1938 a fine silk Legion Standard, the generous gift of Mrs. L. Smith, was presented to the branch by her father, Mr. R. Taylor, and dedicated at the Parish Church, General Sir James O'Dowda, Chairman of the North Western Area, taking the salute.

In 1939 a branch of the Women's section was formed, with Mrs. Ira W. Brown as president and Mrs. A. Duckworth as Chairman. In 1951 the Secretary was Mrs. B. Hooper, and the Treasurer Mrs. E. Fell.

It should be noted at this point that the Rishton Branch of the Royal British Legion have no connection whatever with any social or working men's club in the town. They are the sole local representatives of the Nationwide organisation of the British Legion.

The record of their work cannot be told here, it is known in its entirety to a few, but there are many in the town who have cause to bless its name, myself included, for which I know I will never forget what they have done in the past.

References

Rishton on Record, The Festival of Britain 1951.

Royal British Legion Website