Local fears over Royal British Legion shake-up

Remembrance Sunday at Diss. ANL-150811-222934005
Remembrance Sunday at Diss. ANL-150811-222934005

Representatives of Women’s Royal British Legion (RBL) branches in the Diss Express area have spoken out against plans to integrate the section into the main charity.

The women’s section was formed in 1921 and today has about 30,000 members in more than 700 branches. Women’s sections operating in north Suffolk and south Norfolk include groups in Diss, Dickleburgh, East Harling, Botesdale, Eye and Framlingham.

Words cannot describe how we feel about it, we are absolutely gobsmacked by it

Greta Sturgeon

But the Armed Forces charity wants to merge the section with the rest of the organisation in a bid to cut costs. Women’s sections would still operate, but would be governed by the main charity.

The RBL say the changes would have “little or no impact” on the women’s section.

Greta Sturgeon, chairman of the Eye branch of the women’s section and an RBL member for 42 years, said she felt it was too late to mount a fight, but said the RBL as a whole could suffer, through lack of membership and reduction in fundraising.

The branch currently has 23 members but there is not a men’s group in the town.

“I am absolutely horrified by it all,” she said. “I’m disgusted, in a word.

“Words cannot describe how we feel about it, we are absolutely gobsmacked by it.

“We have always done very good work in the past but we don’t seem to be appreciated for it. Although the money we have raised has gone to good causes, it almost feels as though they think we didn’t do it well enough.”

A Women’s section member and former branch chair and standard bearer, who wishes to remain anonymous, added: “The women are very upset and angry.

“We feel that, when we fundraise, we are not going to have a say where all this money will go, so that is why we are upset.

“Why give up a good thing that has been behind you for 90 years? I think at the next Poppy Appeal they are going to lose millions.”

A spokesperson for The Royal British Legion said: “We are making administrative changes to The Royal British Legion Women’s Section to ensure the charity fulfils its legal requirement of achieving the best use of funds in support of its beneficiaries.

“The changes will have little or no impact on the activities of Women’s Section Branches, which have a long history of supporting the Armed Forces Community and we look forward to retaining the great wealth of experience, expertise and enthusiasm of its staff and members.”