Dilwyn RBL History‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.'
In the aftermath of The Great War of 1914-1919, the British Legion was formed on the 6th of June 1921 at 48 Pall mall, London ‘to provide comfort and relief to the multitude of ex-service men and women who had served on sea, land or in the air during the great conflict'. Branches were formed in large numbers in cities, towns, villages and hamlets throughout the land.
The Dilwyn Branch was formed on 1st April 1928. There is now no record to tell us how many joined in the first year as our earliest minutes are of a meeting held on 28th April 1933. The Officers and members present were: W Price (Chairman), E W Bert (Vice-Chairman), R R Patrick (Treasurer), J Nicholls (Secretary) and Members H Palfrey, W J Palfrey, C J Vaughan, H W Williams, H H E Griffin, A Preece, C Jones, P Holly and Rev Pugh. For more details of those present see the list below. The main purpose of the meeting was to finalise arrangements for a members' outing to Weston-super-Mare due to take place on 15th June. Yeoman's coach to start at 7 am ‘sharp' in order to arrive ‘promptly' at Bristol at noon (a five hour journey!). Lunch to be taken at Bristol before proceeding to Weston at 1 pm. (One wonders what time they eventually arrived back at Dilwyn from a 7 am start!).
At a meeting held on 5th May 1933, it was agreed that a sick member be supplied with ‘one bottle of stout per day for one month'. At the meeting in August of that year, it was agreed that the same member be supplied with ‘four bottles of brandy in half bottles; also one pint of milk per day for a fortnight'. Mr Williams kindly consented to supply the milk and give extra where possible. Food was also provided for another sick member at the rate of 15/- per week for two weeks - the gods to be purchased through Mr J Sadler of Dilwyn.
The annual subscription was 2/6d per year in 1933.
For the planned visit of the Duke of York (later King George VI) to Hereford on 13th June 1934, all members agreed to take part in the parade. In May 1934, delegates from Dilwyn Branch attended the three-day National British Legion Conference at Weston-super-Mare where the President, Major General Sir Frederick Maurice, gave his address and said ‘there seems to be an idea among certain small sections, that our membership can best be increased by turning ourselves into a body of agitators whose work should be to raid the National Treasury for the benefit of ex-service men in general. If this line is adopted you will never keep out of politics; you will be invited to sell your votes to the highest bidder. The Legion is resolute in its determination to obtain what is right and just for disabled comrades and dependants, but the loyalty of The Legion is not for sale'. The minutes do not record the reaction to the General's speech.
A Branch dinner menu in 1935 supplied by Mr Rimmer of Eardisland consisted of : cold beef, pork, chicken, ham, tongue, mashed potatoes, pickles, and sauces, trifle, mince pies, coffee and cheese and biscuits. The all-in price was 2/2d per head.
At the first meeting held, after the outbreak of World War II, on 18th November 1939, Mr W Price suggested ‘that serving members of H M Forces should be remembered at Christmas and that "comforts" of some description should be forwarded to every Parishioner in the Services'. A few days later it was decided to send cigarettes to the value of 2/6d to men in the Forces, but ‘enlisted boys' would be sent chocolate biscuits. The minutes do not clarify what constituted an enlisted boy! The Vicar undertook to see that Mr J Sadler made the necessary arrangements. On Monday 20th May 1940, letters from Parishioners in the Forces acknowledging receipt of the Christmas comforts were read out. Minutes of meetings held throughout the war years record that gifts continued to be sent to members of H M Forces, including some Prisoners of War by means of Red Cross parcels. One wonders how many were received.
In October 1940 arrangements were made for members to join the Local Defence Volunteers and Air Raid Precautions Units. It was also suggested that a siren should be applied for in order to give warning to the Parish as a whole.
In 1948, it was the turn of Dilwyn British Legion to receive six gift food parcels sent by the Australian Women's Organisation. These were distributed to local War Widows.
Since the Second World War, the membership of Dilwyn Branch has, in common with most Branches, continued to ebb and flow but mostly to ebb. Due to declining memberships, it was agreed to amalgamate the Branches of Dilwyn, Eardisland and Monkland into the present Dilwyn Branch (when Eardisland and Monkland had only nineteen members in total).
The first joint meeting took place in July 1988. At the 1994 AGM, the three combined Branches had only 37 members. To halt this decline, and in order to attract new members, it was proposed that we plan to hold two social evenings each November and February where invited speakers would talk about a military subject to our members. In addition, the annual Remembrance Parade and the AGM would continue to be held. Where possible, outside trips and visits should also be organised. The programme has, over the past thirteen years, proved to be very successful in gaining, and retaining, members with the result that we currently have 107 active members! Meetings are held at the Crown Inn, Dilwyn.
We continue to exist thanks to the hard work and dedication of a number of our leading members over the past 79 years. Some are still active in our affairs but, sadly, most have passed on. We believe we owe a debt to these men and women that can only be repaid if we maintain the Branch. In order to do this, we must continue to grow and retain our membership or the day will surely come when we again, with others, have to amalgamate simply to remain in existence. We therefore maintain our search for new members whether they are ex-service men and women or not.
Mrs Eleanor Fletcher of Dilwyn has kindly given the following additional information arising out of the brief history published by the Dilwyn Branch of the Royal British Legion to mark the eightieth anniversary of its founding in 1928 and circulated with ‘The Dilwynner’ that year and published above on this site:
Dilwyn’s War Memorial dates from 1922 (the year Mrs Fletcher was born). The original plan was to erect the Memorial on the triangle of ground opposite The Crown - where the red chestnut tree (which dates from 1904) grows. Mrs Fletcher’s grandfathers, who had both lost a son in the Great War, joined with other local bereaved parents to ask that the Memorial be sited on scared ground. Mrs Fletcher’s paternal grandfather, John Evans, owned The Crown and said that if the Memorial was erected on the triangle all the dogs would cock their legs against it - and others might as well! Hence the wish to have the memorial erected within the churchyard.
The Branch Officers and members mentioned in the history as being present at the meeting on 28th April 1933 were:
‘W Price’ was Bill Price, the village blacksmith, who lived at ‘The Forge’.
‘E W Bert’ was Ernest Bert who was the Agent for Silcocks Feed & Seed Merchants. He lived at ‘Bedford House’. Mrs Fletcher and her husband Dennis went to school with Ernest’s son Robert who lost his life over the North Sea early in World War II while serving as a tail gunner in an RAF Wellington. Robert’s name is not on the Dilwyn memorial as the family had moved to Pembridge.
‘R R Patrick’ was Reg Patrick who lived at ‘The Plough’ which is known as ‘Holly Bank’ (it is not known whether ‘The Plough’ was, at one time, a public house).
‘J Nicholls’ was Tom Nicholls who lived at ‘Quicksetts’. He was badly gassed during The Great War and was unable to do much in his smallholding.
‘Harry Palfrey’ lived at ‘The Villas’ in the house opposite the church.
‘W J Palfrey’ was Bill Palfrey (brother of Harry)who lived in the Dilwyn Common.
‘C J Vaughan’ was Ted Vaughan, the Milkman.
‘H W Williams’ was Harold Williams who lived at ‘Townsend Farm’ (which no longer exists as a farm). He was the Father of Mrs Marie James.
‘H H E Griffin’ was Herbie Griffin who farmed at ‘The Hurst’.
‘A Preece’ (Mrs Fletcher’s uncle) was Alfred Preece who lived at ‘Sunnyside’ at Haven. He was a Painter and Decorator. He held the Mons Star from The Great War (Mrs Fletcher thinks it was the only one awarded to someone from Dilwyn), and died in his chair after cycling home from a Legion meeting!
‘C Jones’ was Charlie Jones who lived in retirement at Townsend Cottage (Dorothy Stilwell's father and Pete Stilwell's grand-dad, fondly known as "Bar").
‘P Holly’ was Percy Holly who lived at ‘The Orles’.
‘Rev Pugh’ was Reverend William (Bill) Pugh MA who was appointed Vicar of Dilwyn on 4th Ocotober 1932 and was the incumbent for the next 18 years.
‘Mr J Sadler’, mentioned later in the History, was Jack Sadler who lived at ‘No1 The Row’. He was the grocer.