Rothwell Royal British Legion Branch re-opens after 55 years
The original branch was merged with nearby Desborough in 1966
The Rothwell Branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) is set to return to the town after nearly 50 years with the dedication of its standard this week.
Plans to revive the branch were prompted by an event organised by Rothwell Town Council to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
With more than 100 armed forces veterans attending the celebration, people from the town decided that they wanted to form their own branch.
Six years on from the original idea and after a break of more than five decades, the new standard will be blessed in the Holy Trinity Church at a special service.
Town councillor Karl Sumpter, branch member said: "We came up with the idea of having a huge celebration for the anniversary of VE Day in the market square - it was a huge success with around 100 veterans from the area and people kept asking why there wasn’t a Rothwell branch of the RBL."
Building on the success of the event, Cllr Sumpter joined with fellow councillor Ray Davis to find out why there wasn't an RBL branch in the town. They advertised a meeting to see if there was any interest in setting up the branch.
Cllr Sumpter said: "We contacted Northampton RBL HQ who informed us that the Rothwell branch was disbanded in 1966 and the standards laid to rest in the Holy Trinity Church. It then became the bigger branch, Desborough and District, with us always relying on them for their huge input into the annual memorial service of remembrance, the parade, and standard bearers.
"We held a meeting one night and invited one of the RBL officers from Northampton to come and give us a presentation. Around 40 membership forms were filled in on the night.
"We then were donated £1,200 to buy the standards, by Cllr Cedwien Brown from her ward fund grant, essential for a branch to operate independently, and we got our own branch number registered."
Membership has been growing steadily with people joining via the Royal British Legion website.
To become an official fully registered branch the final step is for the branch standard and union flag to be dedicated and sworn in which will take place on Saturday, July 24, at 4pm. The event has been organised for 30 people to follow social distancing.
Carrying the standards will be the two newly appointed standard bearers Cllr Keith Patrick and 17-year-old Georgina Sumpter, an army cadet at Montsaye Academy.
Cllr Davis said: "I would like to thank Anne Liddle who is the Rothwell Branch secretary. She is also the secretary of the Desborough and District branch and has been one of the leading lights in getting the Rothwell branch formed and instrumental in getting the branch accepted within the Royal British Legion.
"She has been responsible for all the background work such as contacting the RBL representatives, letter writing and legal guidance in allowing the branch to form. She has guided the committee members through obstacles that were placed in its formation and is an asset to the branch."
Many of the new branch will still be members of Desborough and District branch including president of Rothwell RBL, Tom Morrissey.
He said: "It was Ray's idea to have a new branch and it took a ludicrous amount of hard work and dedication to get to this point.
"I am extremely proud and honoured to be elected as the president of the new branch. I am not military or ex-military, but I did 30 years in the police.
"We have veterans from D-Day to recent conflicts. There's a a lot people coming back home who need help and the RBL can help."
And as the newest branch of the RBL is formed in Rothwell, the Kettering branch of the Royal British Legion has also marked its 100th anniversary, making it the third oldest in Northamptonshire.
The branch received an official certificate to mark the occasion from the county chairman Ian Byrnes.