Plea goes out on anniversary of British Legion

Knaresborough Branch of the Royal British Legion will join others around the UK and beyond to mark the Royal British Legion’s 100th birthday on Saturday.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 11:10 am
Mayor of Harrogate Coun Trevor Chapman is pictured with Knaresborough standard-bearer Paul Darley, Knaresborough Branch Chairman Alan Pitchfork and his wife Brenda Pitchfork, Branch Treasurer Alan Cawkwell Brown and James Howitt from Harrogate Borough Council Parks. Picture: Sharon Van Zelst

But as the group plans to mark the distinguished work to support ex-service personnel and their families, there is a warning that it may disappear if volunteers fail to sign up.

“Knaresborough townsfolk generously raise around £30,000 each year during the Legion’s Poppy appeal but for the Branch to keep functioning we do need more people to join,” said Branch Chairman Alan Pitchfork

“The fear also is that soon there simply will not be enough members to sustain the Branch, which would mean retiring the Standard and an end to the Parade through the town on Remembrance Sunday.

Knaresborough standard-bearer Paul Darley. Picture: Sharon Van Zelst

“The Branch does recognise that the pandemic may have caused some financial pressures on people and families so, even if the annual membership of £18 is unaffordable at this time, any help, especially around the Poppy appeal, would be appreciated.”

At one time, only those who had served in the armed forces were able to join the RBL but times have changed and the Legion now welcomes anyone who wishes to help the charity in its work.

Mr Pitchfork added: “There are now just a handful of active members in the Knaresborough Branch, despite previous calls for new members.”

But as the appeal for members goes out, the Branch is pushing forward with its plans to support 100 years of service to the Armed forces community.

A special photo-shoot was organised at Knaresborough castle-grounds recently, where Harrogate Borough Council has dedicated it’s large flowerbed next to the bowling green to mark the Legion’s centenary.

“The Knaresborough Branch approached Harrogate Borough Council over two years ago to discuss the options for the flowerbed and Sue Wood from the Parks Department worked with the Branch to create the design which was planted out in the autumn of 2020 by James Howitt and Martyn Spence,” said David Houlgate, Vice-Chair Knaresborough Branch.

“A total of 4,000 plants were used in the flowerbed including 3,900 polyanthus in red, white and blue and some black grass for the centre of the poppies.”

Present for the photo-shoot, on his first official engagement as Harrogate’s new mayor, was Coun Trevor Chapman.

Mr Pitchfork thanked the new Mayor for his support and the council for marking the centenary in this way.

He added: “The Legion was as important now as it was 100 years ago.

“Not only does the Legion look after those serving in the armed forces but also ex-service men and women and their families; almost 1 in 6 of the UK population.”

“Throughout the last 100 years service men and women had served their country and in many cases this had left them scarred for life, both physically and mentally with many more losing their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

The Branch already has further plans in place for this centenary year including the return of it’s pop-up market stall and the knitted poppy tribute at Knaresborough Castle this autumn.

Alan can be contacted on 07984700429.