The History of Lambourn Royal British Legion Branch
At the end of the 1914/18 Great War, General Haig was made Commander-in-Chief Home Forces. The post was abolished in 1920 bringing to an end his active military career.
With the completion of his duties as CinC Home Forces, Haig was able to devote undivided attention to the needs of the men he had commanded. For the last nine years of his life, this was his consuming passion.
In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, a number of associations were founded to advance the interests of ex-Servicemen. All had the same basic end but very different means. Aware that veterans were not likely to get fair treatment from society unless they presented a united front, Haig immediately pushed for an amalgamation of these organisations. He wanted one association to include all who had served in HM forces regardless of their rank or position. Though such an amalgamation was not at first popular, through sheer force of his personality and reputation, Haig was able to bring it into being.
The British Legion, formally established in June 1921, owed its existence and its success above all, to Haig.
Though slow to start, branches of the Legion began to be formed throughout the land. In 1927, a few local veterans, who previously had cycled to Uffington (the nearest full branch) formed a sub-branch, holding their meetings at the old Hinds Head in the High Street. In 1929, Charter from National Headquarters was received, confirming the formation of the independent branch of the British Legion to be known as the Lambourn and District Branch.
Many of the names of that first committee and founder members have a familiar ring about them: Fitzgerald, Clarke, Ford, Harris, Rodburn, Butler, Wing, Carter, Dogett, Penfold, Barnes, Coles, Mildenhall, Bodman, Bowsher, Wicks, Payne, Spanswick etc.
The conclusion of the 1939/45 war saw an increase in membership creating a real need for a permanent home for the Branch, which was continuing to meet at the Hinds Head, and for a club.
At the end of 1946, negotiations were in hand to purchase the present club site together with the old NAAFI hut, which was situated on what is now the club car park. In 1947 Legion Headquarters gave authority for a Lambourn British Legion Club. A loan was raised from Lloyds Bank, the bank having received a list of members who had agreed to guarantee the sum of £50 each: Nelson, Pratt, Wicks, Goode, Bracey, Wells, Wing, Dowdeswell, Palmer, Radbourne, Bell, Walwyn…. The purchase was successfully concluded. After much hard work by members the hut was finally approved by District Council for use as a club. It was formally opened on the 5th July 1947.
In November 1961 the Club Committee and members, including by now members who had completed their National Service, commenced planning and raising funds to replace the hut with a new building. To the credit of all concerned the present building was officially opened on September 26th 1964 by the immediate past president Major-General D M W Beak VC DSO MC.
Royal Charter was granted to the British Legion by Her Majesty the Queen in 1971.
It is interesting and not without significance to note that in 1929 the membership of the Branch was 73 – all ex-servicemen! The sale of poppies that year realised the sum of £40. The membership in 2000 stood at 106 Full Members (ex-servicemen) and 118 Associate Members. The sale of poppies in 1998 plus other fund-raising activities realised the splendid sum of £6224.