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Remembering the work of the Royal British Legion

Thursday 5 November in Community

With less than two weeks to go until Remembrance Day 2021, the Island has begun to honour soldiers (past and present) who have fought for their nation by wearing poppies. Following the launch of the Poppy Appeal earlier this month, and with a strong reputation to uphold, the Royal British Legion Isle of Man is as determined as ever to raise funds and help support those who need it the most.

Islandlife spoke to Vice Chairman of the Royal British Legion Isle of Man, Major Charles Wilson, to find out what message lies behind its work:

How important is it for the Royal British Legion to have custody of remembrance?

Extremely! This Island has the most remarkable record for raising more money, per head of population than anywhere else in the British Isles. Last year we raised £135,000 despite the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, and this year hope to do even better. Not only does the Royal British Legion hold the title of custodians and remembrance, but the Poppy Appeal itself, which brings a range of responsibilities. As an organisation we have to take care of war memorials together with the War Memorials Committee here on the Isle of Man, whilst ensuring the remembrance ceremonies are carried out properly.

Given the Island has won the Poppy Cup a number of times, are we well placed to be successful again this year, being a lot smaller than the UK?

Yes, of course we are. Following the launch of the Poppy Appeal last weekend we already have a number of dedicated people who are out and about on the Island’s streets, in the shops and in the public eye in order to raise funds via the sale of poppies. Nowadays, poppies come in all different shapes and sizes. The pin badges have been extremely successful and has even seen some people collecting them over a number of years. We try to get a new one designed each year. As an Island, we can count/rely on the whole community to help which is why the Isle of Man does so well.

What kind of ventures will benefit from the money raised from the Poppy Appeal?

To put it bluntly, we want to help put soldier’s legs back on; physically and mentally. It’s about rehabilitating people and trying to heal the psychological damage that isn’t always obvious.

You don’t have to be at war -- you can be standing next to someone who gets injured and still feel damaged. A lot of money goes into helping rehabilitate those who have lost a leg or an arm for example, no matter how it happened. The services is a dangerous profession; people are lost, killed in accidents on exercises whether in a warzone or on home turf. If families lose a loved one then the Royal British Legion can help ,not just financially but through support systems.

One of the great things about being in the Services is the camaraderie and support network they’ve built their whole lives, but they lose this once they finish service The people who they once leaned on for a lifetime are suddenly gone, and this makes it very difficult for them to go out into the world as a civilian. The Royal British Legion has carried out much work to support them. You don’t have to have served a certain number of days or hours in service to receive help from the Royal British Legion. If someone went into service for the first time tomorrow and was injured, the Royal British Legion would be there to help.

How has the Royal British Legion appeal involved both veterans and young people?

The image associated with the Royal British Legion is that the organisation is there to support older people who fought in the World Wars when, in fact, that is only part of the remit. We are now beginning to engage with the younger generation of veterans. During the launch of the Poppy Appeal there were many young cadets who were dressed up in uniform which was nice to see. A lot of wars have been going on in the world in more modern times from Korea to Iraq and Afghanistan. They remain significant and certainly in living memory which, of course, the Royal British Legion is here to serve. You don’t have to have been in the services to become a member – it is open to anyone.

How do you hope to reach a wider audience?

Of course this time of year [November] marks a great awareness for Remembrance, so we try to get out to the public at large through parades and the Poppy Appeal. Yet it’s not only just two weeks of the year that we exist - we are ever present. Though we may seem ‘quieter than usual’ some people may request confidentiality which we respect but we are stillhere. The wonderful work of the media also lends a massive help, along with our online website.

What do you believe and in what form will be the long term future of the Royal British Legion on the Island?

Many people believe veterans are from the First and Second World War – most of which have passed on, but they don’t always realise that’s not the case. We have a lot of people who are interested in preserving the Royal British Legion – it has a very fine record and we want that to continue – our Manx community never fails to support us.

On 8th November Charles Wilson is giving a talk called ‘The Freedom Trail’ at St George’s Church, Douglas, at 6pm. It follows the escape routes from Spain through France during the Second World War. You can find out more information on the Royal British Legion Isle of Man website http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/isle-of-man/contact-us.

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