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Thursday, November 11, 2021, is Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day.

In the United Kingdom, as in many other nations, people will pause what they are doing at 11 a.m. for two minutes to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, from the Great War to the present:

This year, the Royal British Legion celebrates its centenary.

Their annual Poppy Appeal raises funds to help the armed forces community, those who are actively serving and ex-servicemen:

A variety of help is on offer:

This Royal Air Force officer is grateful for the Royal British Legion’s work:

As Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter explains, the poppy is the symbol of remembrance, recalling Flanders fields in the Great War:

In 1921, the Royal British Legion had 9 million poppies made for sale on November 11 that year. They sold out, raising over £106,000:

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, later Earl Haig, founded the Royal British Legion, urging four ex-service organisations to come together and to support those who had served in the First World War:

In fact, Scottish poppies have ‘Haig Fund’ printed on them. Those in England say ‘Poppy Appeal’.

Earl Haig started urging the Government to take care of veterans as early as 1917. Unfortunately, the Government dismissed his suggestions.

So he came up with another plan:

It was becoming clear to Haig that there was a need for one large organisation to support all the Armed Forces, including Officers, that would hold the Government to account on behalf of the men and women it represented.

Haig refused to be associated with any one of the ex-Service organisations separately and pushed for them to come together to focus on care for ex-Servicemen and their families.

By Spring 1920 the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers and the Comrades of the Great War had realised that unity was the only way forward and called a conference and invited the other organisations.

The conference was chaired by the President of the Federation, Sir Frederick Lister, who successfully argued for the amalgamation of the four existing bodies.

On Sunday 15 May 1921, a small group of ex-Servicemen and representatives from the four organisations, The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, The British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers, The Comrades of The Great War and The Officers’ Association walked to the Cenotaph, in London’s Whitehall. As Big Ben struck nine, the four men representing the organisations laid a wreath with the badges of the four organisations that would officially unite to form the British Legion.

The following day the constitution was presented to and agreed by 700 delegates at the Unity Conference in London. The then Prince of Wales was also invited to become the British Legion’s first Patron, whist Earl Haig was appointed as the British Legion’s first President and Sir Frederick Lister the National Chairman.

The British Legion was founded by and for Armed Forces personnel and as a demonstration of its attitude towards its members the constitution was proposed by a soldier and seconded by a General – there would be no distinction between rank, religion or political affiliation.

In the early years of the newly formed British Legion, founder and President Earl Haig worked tirelessly championing the needs of the Armed Forces, launching the Poppy Day Appeal in 1921 and helping to shape modern Remembrance. He also worked hard at grass-roots level, touring the country with Lady Haig, making speeches, visiting branches, opening bowling greens and hospital wards.

Earl Haig died on January 28, 1928, the day after he visited a poppy factory.

Fortunately, the British Royal Legion lives on.

This video shows some of the Legion’s early posters and magazines:

This video shows some of the Royal British Legion’s earliest poppies and how they have changed over the years:

Remembrance Sunday ceremonies will take place at the Cenotaph in London on November 14.

On Thursday and Sunday, we will remember.

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