Legion has come home after a 30-year absence

Proud members of the Ashton-in-Makerfield Royal British Legion
Proud members of the Ashton-in-Makerfield Royal British Legion

A WIGAN branch of a leading ex-servicemen’s organisation is going from strength to strength after moving back into its original home.

The Ashton branch of the Royal British Legion moved back into the Jubilee Club on Wigan Road following an absence of more than 30 years.

The group is one of the original branches of the Legion and was founded in 1922, the year after the national organisation, and has spent the last 30 years meeting at St Oswald’s Catholic Club.

Ashton branch chairman John Burns thanked the club members for their generous support of the RBL over the years but said members felt it was the right time to move back to their original home.

Mr Burns, 68, said: “It is a long-awaited homecoming and we felt it was time to make the change and go back. We have had excellent service from the Catholic club and it would be remiss of me not to thank the committee and members for their hospitality over the years.

“People were asking about the Jubilee Club and whether we would move back so our secretary and I went up to see the committee and they are delighted to have us back. It’s a perfect venue for us. It’s on the main road so everybody can get to it, the parking and access is good and it is also just down the road from where we start our annual remembrance parade.”

In recent weeks the club has been putting its collection of memorabilia back on the walls, which includes pictures of members enjoying days out and other social events in days gone by.

The Ashton branch has more than 50 members but is looking to recruit more ex-servicemen and women to take part in its fund-raising campaigns and community projects.

The organisation also hopes to expand its programme of activities and is organising its first public social event for several years to mark the centenary of Stubshaw Cross soldier William Keneally being awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Gallipoli.

He was one of half a dozen soldiers who received Britain’s highest military honour on that day, with their courage going down in history as the “six VCs before breakfast”.

Mr Burns said: “One of our members is his great-nephew so we are having a social event to honour him being awarded the VC. We’ve got a certificate and photograph of him and he was a local man. He was awarded the VC on April 25 1915 but there’s a big Lancashire Fusiliers event which his family always goes to on that date, so we’re running our event the evening before.

“We haven’t done a big event since our 90th anniversary dinner at the Masonic Lodge in Bryn a few years ago. For this one we’re extending it out to the general public and we are looking to expand if we can get this one off the ground.”

The Legion offers support to veterans who are injured on the front line, experience financial troubles or fall on hard times, with the Ashton branch having an office above the Co-operative Funeralcare store on Gerard Street which also houses memorabilia from the World War Two campaigns in Burma.

Mr Burns said: “The welfare side of the Legion is all about helping former personnel and giving them support with whatever they need, that’s the biggest thing. Some veterans are looking for houses or get a flat but have no money. In that case we will supply them with white goods.”

The Ashton branch of the Royal British Legion is holding a social event to mark the centenary of William Keneally being awarded the VC on Friday April 24. Tickets are £1 and available from the Jubilee Club on Wigan Road or the branch.

The group meets on the first Monday of each month at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start. To find out more, ring John Burns on 07876 348638 or email ashtonrbl@yahoo.co.uk