History of Effingham British Legion

The branch of the Royal British Legion in Effingham was originally named the "Effingham & District" branch, but later became the "Effingham & The Bookhams" branch, its name today. The "Brief History" below, written by the late Jim Clarke, was published by Roxley Models and appears here by kind permission of Frank Rice-Oxley. It has been slightly adapted here to improve the narrative flow.

 

EFFINGHAM & THE BOOKHAMS ROYAL BRITISH LEGION

(A BRIEF HISTORY)
by the late Jim Clarke 

 

Front cover of the booklet in which this article appears.

 

Following the end of the 'Great War' in 1918 (some say 1919 before it was really all over) the lads and lasses returned – from what, in many cases, must have seemed like Hell – to a 'Land fit for Heroes'. After a while the excitement of returning and surviving was beginning to pall; everyone was beginning to realise that things would never be the same again. Food was scarce, many jobs were no longer there, times for many were hard and the comradeship of service life was still missing.

In the village, friends and neighbours having a hard time were easy to spot and ex-servicemen were able to help each other without embarrassment, forming themselves into associations. In 1921 the British Legion was founded to coordinate these benevolent actions and also to have a greater influence with Government who, it was felt, was not treating the ex-servicemen as they should.

In 1919 Captain Searle organised a first meeting of local ex-servicemen at The Halt, a tea shop just over the bridge at Effingham Junction. Further meetings were held at various venues – The Plough, the W.I. Hall, the Catholic Church Hall and the Men's Institute. In 1925 more interest prompted an application to the British Legion H.Q. for registration, so on 4th November 1925 the Effingham and District Branch of the British Legion was formed with its first Committee. The Chairman was Captain Masters, the Treasurer was Mr. Raworth and the Secretary was Captain F. J. Searle, with the Headquarters at The Halt. The Committee was Mr. A. Poland, Mr. J. Biles, Mr. Muggeridge, Mr. B. Wells, Mr. Turville Kille and Mr. Bishop. An Armistice dinner was held, after which meetings continued at various venues, with fund-raising ideas such as dances. Whist drives and smoking concerts helped to raise interest. In 1931 a meeting was arranged with a speaker from Legion H.Q. The Committee was reformed and extended. It was reported that the Armistice dinner had made a profit of £2.11s.7d.

In February a case for assistance was unable to be met for lack of funds. Horsley Branch helped out. There were not enough funds to pay a member's hospital bill of less than £2, later reduced by the Chairman of the Hospital Board to 16s.

Various functions continued to raise funds. As the funds increased so did requests for relief. It was reported that one dance raised £9.10s.10d. Personal loans were given by better-off members to those in need. Various funds were started for the purchase of a Standard, for a children's party and outings. In May serious thought was given to the purchase of land to build a permanent H.Q. Mrs. Pauling of The Lodge was approached to sell one or two acres next to the Catholic Church. £15 was transferred from the General Fund to a Building Fund as a start.

By July 1931, with progress in raising funds with concerts, dances, whist drives, etc. at various venues around the Village and in Bookham, a decision was made to pay a £20 deposit on just under one acre of land next to the R.C. Church, while still distributing relief and assisting with housing, employment and pension problems.

Armistice dinners were held and Remembrance Day Services were attended. In some years parades were held in the morning at Great Bookham, in the afternoon at Little Bookham and in the evening at Effingham. Competitions were held with other local branches, such as in darts, etc. Members attended Standard Dedications at other branches, travelling to them by bus and train – some on the south coast and on the Isle of Wight – with expenses paid for by the Branch for Standard Bearers and Escorts.

The provision of a permanent H.Q. was still a priority, with other possibilities considered such as leasing the W.I. Hall and another land site offered but later withdrawn. Small sums were transferred to the Building Fund from time to time.

Finally, in June 1933 negotiations with the Pauling Trust were opened for half an acre of land next to the R.C. Church for £100. On 14th December of that year the conveyance was signed by the Trustees. During the time since the idea of an H.Q. started, various plans had been considered, with estimates from builders or local labour to build a 60-feet building with a bar, Committee Room and toilets, later extended by 10 feet. Estimates ranged from £300 to £450. After due consideration it was decided to employ local labour on a £300 estimate. Mr. Wells was employed at a wage of £3.15s per week to oversee the construction. A lot of volunteer labour was used and other help was also given in the form of free hardcore, the loan of a shed, a second-hand fence and a piano.

By the end of February, with work progressing, a stop was called: the project had run out of funds. The estimated cost of finishing the building included £100 for the roof and a further £200; to make matters worse a verbal offer of [a donation of] £25 was withdrawn. Mr. Mallaby Deeley said his father wished to donate [money for] the roof to the memory of his wife, and his offer was gratefully accepted.

A loan was raised for £225, which was accepted; work restarted. Mr. Wells had to give up but his son would continue at 1s.6d per hour. In April it was proposed to finish the work within two months.

In May 1934, owing to the number of Bookham residents joining the Branch, the name was changed to Effingham & The Bookhams. At the Club meeting it was agreed that on completion an extension would be needed to accommodate the bar, which a member had offered to build. Another member offered the timber. Also needed was another loan of £200 to complete.

The first meeting of the Committee in the new hall was held on 13th July 1934. It was agreed to ask Mrs. Greville to open the Club on 13th October 1934, with members to march from the Crown in Bookham, and The Bookham Band to be engaged. Extra chairs were hired from Bentalls for the opening.

 

The new Branch Headquarters. (Mary Rice-Oxley Postcard Collection.)

 

Sadly, no records can be found until 1942. [Presumably he meant no Branch records; and, presumably, his account of events prior to 1942 was drawn from some other source(s).]

September 1942: membership was becoming a worry as so many members were serving. Wives knitted garments for the troops, using vouchers for coupon-free wool. The Committee was informed that these were no longer available.

To ease the welfare situation, members' wives were appointed to serve on the Benevolent Committee, including Lady Mallaby Deeley, wife of the President. It was also noted with concern that the number of local service personnel reported missing was rising.

Later that year a donation from the War Savings Campaign of £25 for the Bookhams section of the Branch was received and welcomed.

September 1943: a new flag pole was erected by members of the Branch, having been conveyed from Bookham Station on a horse and cart loaned by Mr. Mizen.

1944: the Branch continued to attract new applicants for membership; each one's eligibility was checked before membership was granted. The Benevolent Committee continued to distribute relief, advice and assistance where necessary, assisted by donations from fund-raising efforts such as Wings for Victory and a £50 donation from Salute the Soldiers Week – £10 of this was donated to S.S.A.F.A. [Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association].

During this time the Branch was carrying out maintenance on the building with occasional assistance from the Club Committee.

In January 1945 the Home Guard asked for the use of land at the rear of the Club to construct a miniature rifle range; this was agreed. About this time, it appears, a loan was raised from H. & G. Simmonds, Brewers, to purchase an additional piece of land from F. & G. Mizen.

In January 1946 the President, Sir [Guy] Meyrick Mallaby Deeley, who had done so much for the Branch and Club, passed away. Later that year Mr. Muggeridge resigned. He had been involved with the Branch from the very early days and had served as Secretary for many years. His wife also resigned from the Benevolent Committee. Both resigned for reasons of age and health. About the same time, Lady Wadia was also lost from the Benevolent Committee.

Annual insurance increased from £2 to £3 for £3,000 cover.

November 1946: 10 guineas was donated to the Parish Welfare Home Fund. Members assisted with the distribution of Xmas parcels to the elderly. £4.10s.0d was allocated for the needy at Xmas and £1.10s.0d was given to three members.

June 1947: it was proposed to transfer the Trusteeship of the Branch to Legion H.Q. as one trustee had died and another, Chairman Capt. McGowan, was leaving the district. This was finally done in June 1948, by a motion carried with 14 for and 13 against at a Special General Meeting. It was also proposed that a proper lease be drawn up between Branch and Club instead of the existing verbal one; a draft lease was drawn up and agreed.

January 1948: a memorial to the fallen was proposed by various organisations. (A Memorial Tablet was finally unveiled by Mr. A. Poland on August 15th 1954 with a full Church and a strong Legion presence; the Legion's share of the cost was £18.6s.6d.)

In September 1948 a Joint Building Committee and a fund were set up for a proposed extension to the building. Although plans were drawn up and tenders received, by September 1949 the programme had been postponed through lack of funds, and falling membership made the financial future unsure.

July 1951: the Legion participates in Village celebrations for the Festival of Britain. The situation by then had improved and the Club requested permission to extend the building on the west side to accommodate the billiard table. It appears that by this time the lease to the Club included all repairs and improvements.

November 1951: the Legion affiliation fee increased to 2s, leaving the Branch with only 6d. It was proposed to increase subs to 3s.

February 1952: the flag pole was brought down by the wind.

By the end of March 1953 the Secretary had found a flag pole of about 25 feet, for a cost of 10d per foot. There is no record of it being erected or by whom.

July 1954: the Rifle Club requested to pay a subscription for the use of the land at the rear of the Club, which was granted.

September 1955: The Vicar of Effingham had suggested that a table be placed below the Memorial Tablet in the Church, to place flowers on. The Branch Committee voted a donation of 5 guineas to start the collection.

March 1956: the formation of a Women's Section, previously proposed, was again discussed. By April 1957 the Women's Section had been formed and was requesting more Club time. They were granted one evening a month (a good move by the Club as they have been a great asset – they now hold two meetings a month and are very active in the County, also supportive of Club and Branch activities).

The Branch continued to dispense relief and to assist where possible with housing and financial problems, raising funds with jumble sales and dances. The Club Committee continued to seek a loan for the extension.

September 1959: the Legion increased the affiliation fee to 3s. It was proposed to increase Branch subs from 3s.6d to 4s.6d. It was also agreed, as last year, to give the ladies of the Women's Section a dinner, a tradition that is continued to this day.

December 1961: The flag pole broke in half and once again was replaced. It is still in use today, having been shortened once and painted a number of times.

I hope this trawl through the old Minute Books has been of some interest and explains a bit about the early days and history of a Royal British Legion Branch, and the struggle to get their own Headquarters while carrying out support and welfare to ex-service personnel where and when needed.

The Royal Warrant was granted in 1971 to the Legion which now became the Royal British Legion.

The Club is now the social side of the Legion and supports the Branch in its work, which continues, although there are fewer ex-servicemen and women involved. They are ably supported by non-service members known as associate members, for now. Next year all members will be known as 'Members'.

We will continue to serve all the time there is a need; and there will always be a need.

 

THE NEW STANDARD – APRIL 1989 

The Branch acquired a new Standard in April 1989. It was presented by The Worshipful Mayor of Guildford, Elizabeth Cobbett. There was an associated church service, parade and inspection at the Headquarters. Below are copies of several photographs of the event kindly lent by Jessica Page from her personal archives.

 

At St. Lawrence Church.

 

Parading from Crossways into The Street.

 

 

Approaching the Branch Headquarters in Lower Road.

 

Arrival of the Mayor of Guildford.

 

At the Headquarters : above, Jim Clarke is 2nd from left in the front row.