Abbey marks the Centenary of the Royal British Legion

Tuesday, 12th October 2021

Abbey marks the Centenary of the Royal British Legion

Her Majesty The Queen and Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal attended a Service of Thanksgiving to mark the Centenary of the Royal British Legion at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 12th October.

The Royal British Legion (RBL) was founded on 15th May 1921, when representatives of the four national organisations of ex-Serviceman came together at the Cenotaph to create the British Legion. Born in the aftermath of the First World War, the charity’s founding mission was to fight for the rights of those who had given so much and come back to so little. Today, the RBL continues to stand with the Armed Forces community and challenge injustices to ensure all those who have served and sacrificed on our behalf get the fair treatment and recognition they deserve.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said in his Bidding:

'We gather in this Abbey church, witnesses to the One who came not to be served, but to serve. On this centenary of the Royal British Legion, we give thanks for the tireless, dedicated, and distinguished work of all those who have lived out the Legion’s motto of ‘Service not self’. With them, we renew our commitment to the faithful remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country and those thousands of others who have served alongside them in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. We meet to pray a blessing on the work of the Legion in its care for serving personnel, veterans, and their dependents. We give thanks for the dedication, imagination, and resilience of those who find fresh ways of engaging with the many and varied needs of those who have suffered as a consequence of their commitment to Monarch and Nation. We pray that we will always have the wisdom and generosity of spirit to acknowledge and meet those needs. On a day of proud remembrance, honouring the work of those who founded and have sustained the life of the Royal British Legion, we look to the future in confidence and hope, determined to build on what has been begun. May it always be said that that the Legion lived up to its calling and bore witness to its pledge of ‘Service not self’. In the words of Saint Paul: ‘Let love be genuine; hate 'what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.''

Naomi Hall, a former Senior Aircraftwoman in the RAF, read a testimony describing the help she received from the RBL following traumatic experiences in Afghanistan.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal read Matthew 25: 31–40

The Address was given by the Dean, who spoke of the Legion's 'extraordinary' work:

'The Legion is more than poppies. It is their job to mark sure that the rest of us do not go back to our history and find only flowers. The Legion tells the truths we would forget, has words for our silence and makes us whole.'

Prayers were led by the Reverend Mark Birch, Minor Canon and Precentor; and said by: General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff; Colour Sergeant Johnson Beharry, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; Megan Adams; Sara Jones; and the Reverend David Stanton, Canon in Residence.

Lieutenant General James Bashall, National President of the RBL, lead an Act of Rededication, reaffirming the Legion’s commitment to its work.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. The organ was played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist.

Posies were presented to The Queen and The Princess Royal, by: Frances, aged 9; and Isabella, aged 7.