“We were overwhelmed at the warmth of support from many members”

A modernisation plan shaped by both Legion and Women’s Section membership has been approved by the trustees. Chairman Marilyn Humphry and Vice-Chairman Pat Chrimes explain how it allows all members to move forward together – without losing the unique identity of the Women’s Section.

In many ways, this modernisation plan will lead to no obvious changes: we’ve always been part of The Royal British Legion, and we always want to be. But some things will be done differently – we will now be accountable to the Membership Council, which hasn’t been the case previously.

But we’re also very pleased that henceforth, we’ll also be entitled to appoint a member to the Council. For one thing, this means that our voice can be heard, but more importantly, we’ll be able to gather more information about the trustees’ thoughts, and the challenges and priorities ahead, more quickly.

We’re delighted that our members will retain our National President, HRH The Princess Royal – an important tie that we didn’t want to lose – and our National Standard, and that our Chairman will continue to serve on the Board of Trustees. After November 2018, and the end of the First World War centenary commemorations, we’ll no longer lay a separate wreath at the Cenotaph.

The Women's Section of The Royal British Legion

The Women's Section plays an important role in Remembrance at home and abroad.

What else will change? Our accounting and funding practices will now fall in line with the rest of the charity. The Women’s Section has always financed itself: setting ourselves a budget and sticking to it, but taking no funds from either The Royal British Legion or the Poppy Appeal.

Our General Fund has been replenished since our formation in 1921 solely by our membership fees. Henceforth, though, the procedures we follow will be the same as the rest of the Legion, which streamlines and makes transparent all the charity’s financial processes, but our reserves will continue to be available for the Women’s Section to allocate.

The Royal British Legion's Women's Section at the Rangoon Memorial, Burma.

The Women’s Section at the Rangoon Memorial in Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma.

What won’t change – and this has been of fundamental importance to us – is the ability to continue with what we call ‘schemes’: programmes we have run for many years that do a world of good for beneficiaries, particularly women and children. In the past, these would have included our own Women’s Section rest homes, and a children’s home, which we no longer support; nowadays the schemes are more appropriate to the times we live in.

“The women’s section will now be accountable to the membership council.”

The President’s Award, for example, is all about making educational grants and awarding scholarships. They’re open to anyone who has served in the Armed Forces, and their families, so we usually help young people, boys as well as girls, on their journey into university. The only change now is that this scheme will be run by the Legion’s Operations team, streamlining the process and making it more efficient – and, we hope, leading to more enquiries, more grants and more scholarships.

It’s one of the clear positives of bringing the Women’s Section and the rest of the Legion closer together: we’ll have more eyes and ears helping us do our work, and that can only mean making a bigger impact on our beneficiaries.

We’ll continue to manage sub-committees to administer our finances and our welfare schemes, but our annual conference subcommittee will only operate this year, as we merge our conference with the Membership annual event in May 2018.

“We can’t express enough our gratitude for members’ support.”

It will be interesting to see how this merger affects the nature of Annual Conference: there might be a large influx of Women’s Section members, with possibly different viewpoints being put to the floor as a result.

We plan to hold a Women’s Section AGM in early spring, preparing the motions and comments we want to put to Conference in May. Hopefully we’ll bring a new energy and fresh impetus to the meeting. And while we know that all Legion members care about the women and children in the Armed Forces community who need our help, we think it’s fair to say the Women’s Section has considerable experience of their needs, how to address them, and how to offer help in a way that’s welcomed by beneficiary families.

The Women's Section Memorial at the NMA

The Women’s Section memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Funnily enough, the annual conference last May in Eastbourne was a source of renewed energy and enthusiasm for us. The positive responses we were given at a social level by the Legion’s grassroots membership were wonderful. We were simply overwhelmed at the warmth of the support; it was a turning point that sent us back to the trustees with renewed determination to keep our arm of the Legion alive and well. We can’t express enough our gratitude for members’ support, and hope we can justify it with our work going forward.

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