Posted 22nd October 2017 by Maggie Clowes

The Royal British Legion hasn’t always been around. A British Legion was formed in 1921 and didn’t become “Royal” until 1971. Find out about its beginnings in Appleby.

In 1916 a national group calling itself the Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers was set up to protect their interests. Penrith had already formed a branch when a meeting was called in Appleby to follow suit - thirty men signed up on the spot. By 1921 when three groups representing servicemen amalgamated to form the British Legion the Appleby group had over eighty members and the group was run by a 26 strong committee.

The Appleby LegionMeetings were originally held in the Mechanics Institute but members were anxious to have their own premises. A bid was put in for the Hindson property in Doomgate but then the Misses George offered them three thatched cottages in Bongate which had been declared unfit for human habitation. It would appear that they were demolished and replaced by a single storey building.

The newly formed Legion was apparently not consulted about the siting of the town War Memorial . A well attended meeting of the Federation had discussed the matter and understandably felt they should have been included in the discussions. They objected strongly to the original proposal to put it in a corner of St Lawrence churchyard overlooking the river. When they met with the Town memorial Committee their representatives expressed their views forcibly - any other site would have been more suitable, “ this was practically an insult.” The Federation proposed that the memorial should be in the market square, opposite the Post Office; “We have done our bit for you and our pals who have died are entitled to the best and most public place you can give them”. Ultimately a curious final arrangement was agreed whereby Appleby has two war memorials - one in the cemetery on the edge of town, the other in a corner of St Lawrence churchyard but just inside the cloisters entrance.