2021 marks the centenary of the Royal British Legion. For 100 years the Royal British Legion (RBL) has been providing financial, social and life-long support to the Armed Forces community.
Established out of the need to provide care for those who had fought during the First World War and returned home needing assistance, RBL has been a support system and helping hand for many across the years.
Since 2004 The Westminster Collection has been proud partners with the Royal British Legion, and throughout that time our collectors have raised over £1.1 million for the organisation.
“This staggering contribution has been crucial in allowing us to continue providing vital welfare services to veterans and their families.”Charles Byrne – Director General, Royal British Legion
In this special centenary year, we look back over RBL’s history, their achievements, and our continued relationship with this vital organisation.
The history of the Poppy
Out of destroyed fields left barren from the First World War, beautiful red Flanders poppies began to grow. This is what gave Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae inspiration to write the poem ‘In Flanders Fields‘.
Spearheaded by Moina Michael and Anna Guérin, the poppy was adopted across the globe as a symbol of Remembrance. Both Michael and Guérin produced poppies, and together, nine million poppies were produced and sold in 1921, raising more than £106,000 which went towards aiding ex-Servicemen.
Interestingly, due to the poppies being produced by different manufacturers and in separate countries, their appearance became quite different.
Those made in France were vivid red, simple, made from fabric and with a little green stalk. They included two messages on them which were ‘British Legion Remembrance Day’ and ‘Made by the Women and Children. The devastated areas of France.’
Whereas, the ones produced in Britain had a total number of five petals made from silk, with black stitching, little beads and a leaf.
The poppy design has changed a lot over the past 100 years; today it comprises of two red paper petals with a black centre and green paper leaf. But the meaning behind the symbol remains the same, and now, an amazing forty million poppies are dispersed globally each year.
RBL: 1921 – 2021
From the very beginning, the Royal British Legion has given their undivided attention to helping veterans as they believe that “no-one should suffer for having served others”.
Since then, RBL has worked tirelessly to honour that promise. Here are just some of the fantastic things they have achieved over the past 100 years.
The first TB hospital
Tuberculosis (TB) was one of the most serious health issues experienced after the First World War, resulting in the deaths of 18,000 returning servicemen. To help treat patients, RBL set up the very first British TB hospital, providing much-needed treatment to patients and also providing jobs and housing to servicemen and their families.
The village surrounding this hospital is now a thriving community which still supports the RBL to this day, producing 20 million Remembrance poppies every year.
RBL has funded many rehabilitation centres to provide much-needed support to veterans and members of the Armed Forces. Their services include wellbeing courses, and a whole host of activities aimed at building camaraderie such as:
- Mountain biking
- Wheelchair basketball
They have also part-funded The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre which houses the Royal British Legion Complex Trauma Gym, open for patients to participate in fitness activities which aim to increase their mobility and help them to regain independence.
More recently, RBL have been supporting the Armed Forces community during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help with a dramatic increase in calls for accessing food, RBL extended their Benefit, Debt and Money Advice Service. Another vital service utilised during the pandemic has been RBL’s Telephone Buddies scheme, which offers companionship and support to anyone feeling lonely or isolated.
Since 1921, the RBL has gained 180,000 members and 110,000 volunteers, making them the nation’s largest Armed Forces charity.
Working hard to ensure that the Armed Forces community have a voice, they communicate with members of parliament and officials to establish the representation the community deserve. Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult for ex-serving personnel and that’s why RBL continue to be there to provide lifelong support to them and their families, offering advice and guidance but also rehabilitation and recovery activities.
RBL’s Partnership with The Westminster Collection
Since 2004, The Westminster Collection has been honoured to produce annual poppy coins in collaboration with the Royal British Legion. From Brilliant Uncirculated coins, to intricate Masterpiece coins, these are one-of-a-kind designs and are as unique as they are beautiful.
Over the past 17 years, collectors have shown their support to the RBL through purchasing these annual coin designs to take pride of place in their collections. 10% of any sales are contributed directly to RBL to support their vital work with the Armed Forces community.
We would like to thank our collectors for continuing to show their support to the RBL and help them to provide financial, social and emotional support to all who have served and are currently serving in the British Armed Forces and their families.
The 2021 Poppy Coin Collection
In this milestone anniversary year a new, very special design has been issued to commemorate RBL’s centenary.
The design perfectly illustrates RBL’s centenary year, featuring the 1921 RBL Poppy alongside the iconic modern day poppy. The reverse also includes the messages ‘We will remember them’ and ‘100 years’.
‘We will remember them’ was chosen because it is a significant line taken from the poem ‘For the Fallen’ written by Lauren Binyon in 1914. ‘For the Fallen’ endures as a dignified and solemn expression of loss.
This year’s design brings both the past and present together, acknowledging all of the outstanding work the Royal British Legion has done throughout the past 100 years – and will continue to do so for many more.
If you’re interested…
Take a closer look at this year’s coins in the video below, and if you’d like to own one of this year’s commemorative Poppy coins you can shop the complete range here >>