Friday, 17 September 2021

Sadness as Legion's women's sections close

MORE than 40 people attended a party to mark the closure of the Royal British Legion’s Harpsden and Kidmore End women’s sections.

MORE than 40 people attended a party to mark the closure of the Royal British Legion’s Harpsden and Kidmore End women’s sections.

Former members enjoyed hot drinks and a buffet lunch at Harpsden village hall while being entertained by a pianist and singer.

A cake baked by Vikki Nutt, the Legion’s women’s secretary for Oxfordshire, was cut to celebrate the Harpsden section’s 70th anniversary.

There was also a charity raffle and exhibition of photographs from throughout the group’s history.

The two sections decided to shut earlier this year after the Legion announced it was amalgamating all branches into mixed-sex branches to save money.

The women were offered the chance to join the men but all bar a handful refused, saying it would not have the same friendly atmosphere as their own section.

About 10,000 women across the country are reported to have done the same.

The women intend to continue meeting informally to support other charities.

They were joined at Saturday’s farewell event by men from both branches who share their anger at the changes.

Gillian Spiers, who chaired the Harpsden women’s section and had been a member since 1992, told guests: “What a way the Legion has treated not only our little branch but the entire women’s section.

“Instead of thanking us for our freely given services, they have killed us off without a court martial or even a mention in despatches or Victoria Cross.

“Perhaps they have forgotten the philosophy: behind every successful man there stands a great woman, even if the men won’t admit it.

“Thank you to all the great women here and to all of you who have given us your support over the years.”

Later, she added: “We’ve had a wonderful turnout and everyone really enjoyed looking at the photographs from times gone by.

“The ladies turned up trumps with our food spread. They’re a wonderful bunch and it makes this a very tearful moment.

“There are a lot of mixed feelings here because it’s a lovely party and it’s great to be together but it’s very sad that our section has closed. The men from our branches are disgusted and support us 100 per cent.”

Pam Pratt, the former chairwoman at Kidmore End, who also attended, said: “This won’t stop us doing charity work. I’m now helping to raise funds for Blesma, the limbless veterans’ charity, and they’re far more appreciative of the support.”

The Legion says the change will make more efficient use of the public funds it receives via the Poppy Appeal.

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