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Royal British Legion appeals for Bishop's Stortford's centenary memories




Bishop's Stortford's Royal British Legion is appealing for people's memories of the branch's time in the town.

Nationally, the organisation celebrates its centenary next year and has launched a "Telling our Story" project to chronicle its history.

It was formed on May 15, 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-servicemen established after the First World War: the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, the British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers, The Comrades of The Great War and The Officers' Association.

The former Royal British Legion building in Windhill, Bishop's Stortford
The former Royal British Legion building in Windhill, Bishop's Stortford

Soon after, the Stortford branch was organised and officially registered on April 6, 1922.

It started off in a small ARP (Air Raid Precaution) hut behind Bishop's Stortford Football Club's original ground at Rhodes Avenue, giving practical help and companionship to ex-servicemen of the Great War and their dependants.

By the end of the Second World War, members including Boyd Gibbons and Jim Fuller decided the town's returning servicemen needed better provision.

Armed Forces Day in Bishop's Stortford. (41345803)
Armed Forces Day in Bishop's Stortford. (41345803)

Their friend Phillip Rust – who lost three sons in the conflict – offered them No 28 Windhill at a nominal sum. Secretary Jack Gallimore enlisted financial support from Legion members and businessmen Jack Tissiman, Bernard Sparrow and Colonel Grant, who managed the match factory at Hockerill. The £3,000 deal was completed on October 11, 1948, and the "necessary" bar area was added soon after.

After American crooner Bing Crosby and the Royal Family turned down invitations to open the club, three film stars of the day – Dereck de Marney, Rosalind Johns and Meg Jenkins – attended.

In 2018, the building went on the market for more than £1m after spiralling repair costs for the 18th-century, grade II listed building prompted the Legion's head office to sell.

It remains empty, and the town's branch and women's section are now based at the New Apton Centre in Apton Road.

War memorial, Castle Park, Bishop's Stortford. Legion members at the Remembrance Sunday service. Picture: Vikki Lince
War memorial, Castle Park, Bishop's Stortford. Legion members at the Remembrance Sunday service. Picture: Vikki Lince

Branch secretary Terrie Archer said: "As the Royal British Legion celebrates its 100th birthday next year, our branch has been asked to take part in its Telling our Story project by submitting details of memorable events or people who have been part of our own history."

Chosen submissions will be on display at a centenary exhibition at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster next May and will be included in a 'Telling our Story' publication.

"The people of Bishop's Stortford have always shown us great generosity and support, and recognition of our branch as part of the project would ensure that our own story will not be forgotten," said Terrie.

The New Apton Centre, Bishop's Stortford. The Stortford branch of the Royal British Legion has taken office space here after its old offices were closed. Cadets and veterans line up at the opening celebrations. Current President John Robinson is fourth from the right at the back. Picture: Vikki Lince
The New Apton Centre, Bishop's Stortford. The Stortford branch of the Royal British Legion has taken office space here after its old offices were closed. Cadets and veterans line up at the opening celebrations. Current President John Robinson is fourth from the right at the back. Picture: Vikki Lince

If you have a memory to share, get in touch with Terrie by emailing terriearcher@hotmail.com or calling 07804 778036.



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