WIGAN’S branch of the Royal British Legion is to be reformed.
Supporters of the historic charitable organisation - which spent £139m last year helping injured former forces personnel and those facing social difficulties - have organised a special meeting tomorrow at Whelley Ex-Servicemen’s Club at 7.30pm tomorrow evening to discuss the plans further.
Organisers are confident there will prove to be sufficient interest to open a new chapter in the legion’s long and illustrious history in the town, after it disbanded following the closure of the club, in Dicconson Street, three years ago.
The news has been hailed by the Legion, more used to handling inquiries about the demise of branches.
Lancashire and Greater Manchester area manager Richard Foster said today: “We are delighted to see a move to reform the branch.”
Spokesman for the movement to breath new life into the former the branch, Brian Fenton, now believes that the time is right for a Wigan Legion branch to return.
The former RAF man - who was based at Royal Air Force Tangmere Fighter Command (East Sussex) in the early ’60s and also saw service in Tripoli, Libya - believes that the Iraq war and the on-going conflict in Afghanistan has woken the public to the debt and duty of care it owes to its servicemen and women.
Brian, who is also these days a standard bearer, said: “The meeting is for all ex-members who are interested in getting the branch going again and any new members of course.
“I am a member of the RAF Association with 70 members or so already meeting there every month and a number of our members have been talking for some time about reviving the branch.
“Since the closure of Wigan many members have remained active members of the Legion but attended meetings of Aspull or Standish branches instead and I know that many of them are keen for Wigan branch to start again. We have now been visiting a number of places that could become a new home for Wigan Legion Branch and we reckon that Whelley Ex-Servicemen is just about perfect because they have a smaller room that we can use without getting lost in the place.
“I have approached the committee and they have ‘no problem - we would welcome you with open arms’.
“We will need to become involved in fund-raising because when Wigan Legion was going it would hold a concert every Saturday night which provided the revenue to keep going.
“I suppose there must have been 25 or so regular members when it closed but we are hoping to bring them back and to recruit many more.
“Because of what is happening in Afghanistan there is a lot more interest around about caring for our troops when they come home.”
Mr Fenton’s grandson is an Army Cadet based at the TA headquarters in Beech and he is hopeful that a revived Wigan Branch may also be able to boast, for the first time, a junior section.
The Royal British Legion, founded in 1921 by combining four ex-service organisations, celebrated the first Poppy Day in that year.