Thousands in donations could be lost, closing British Legion group warns

(Left to right) Christine Taylor, vice chairman of the East Preston Royal British Legion Women's Section; Janet Pidgeon, chairman; Father David Farrant; Ann James, secretary; Pam Twine, committee member; Carol Oxley, county secretary and standard bearer. Pictured at St Mary's Church, East Preston.
(Left to right) Christine Taylor, vice chairman of the East Preston Royal British Legion Women's Section; Janet Pidgeon, chairman; Father David Farrant; Ann James, secretary; Pam Twine, committee member; Carol Oxley, county secretary and standard bearer. Pictured at St Mary's Church, East Preston.

Members of the closing women’s section of the Royal British Legion in Arun have said thousands of pounds of fundraising could be lost.

Last year, the national body decided to amalgamate the women’s section with the men’s section. As a result, 22 of the 27 women’s sections in Sussex are closing completely.

Putting it bluntly, I think they have shot themselves in the foot

Ann James

The women’s section provides care and support for the ex-service community and raises money through fundraising and organising the poppy appeals.

Janet Pidgeon, 69, from East Preston has been the chairman of the village’s women’s section for nine years. It closed on October 22 after 90 years of operating.

She said: “We have worked hard over all these years and we feel like we have been let down because there was not much consultation. I suppose we have to soldier on and move with the times but our ladies don’t like it. Ninety years is a long time.”

Ann James, branch secretary, also from East Preston, believes the Royal British Legion will miss out on at least £3,000 a year in fundraising from their group.

“Putting it bluntly, I think they have shot themselves in the foot,” she said.

Betty Underhill, 86, from Bognor Regis joined the women’s section in Surrey in 1948 and joined the national executive for the organisation in the seventies.

She was awarded an OBE for her work with disabled ex-servicemen and also met the Queen Mother.

She criticised the Royal British Legion for their handling of the situation, having sent letters to members announcing the change with no consultation.

“Personally, I feel they handled it extremely badly. They needed more negotiations before they dropped that bombshell through the post. That hurt the women more than anything.”

Mrs Underhill, who is in charge of the Bognor branch, is starting a friendship group for her members. She expressed her fears for the women who are no longer part of the legion.

“I lost my husband 10 years ago, so I know what it feels like to be without a partner when you have been with someone for so many years. I want to give my ladies something to look forward to from time to time.”

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