A Brief Early History of The Royal British Legion Riders Branch
The inaugural Riders Branch meeting.
In July 2004 a meeting took place at The Royal British Legion Village to discuss the possibility of an ex-services motorcycle club becoming an official branch of the RBL.
Circumstances took over and this idea was discarded but not forgotten. In late August, Paul Pollard and Graham Barber decided to resurrect the idea and approached some of those who were at the first meeting. The Legion was contacted again with a clear way ahead and an informal meeting was set up in November at RBL Cheltenham where the 14 original members met to discuss how to proceed and to form a committee, 12 volunteered for the first Riders Committee. It was at this meeting that we formally decided on our name and an adapted set of Branch Byelaws. At the end of this informal meeting, the official inaugural meeting took place and ‘The Riders’ were officially formed.
2005 saw our first official events an invite to ride into the annual conference at Torquay and be introduced to all the delegates, Beaulieu Motorcycle World and of course our then annual Poppy Run, where 11 Riders travelled to Germany visiting Paderborn, Sennelager, Herford and Celle on the fund raising campaign raising £2150 for the Poppy Appeal.November 2005 saw our first AGM at RBL Cheltenham with the Branch having grown to 160 Riders.
2006 saw us out and about again with more events, more rallies, whilst the Poppy Run took 23 Riders to France and Belgium visiting Commonwealth Grave sites and laying a wreath at the poignant Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres, raising £6000. 2006 AGM was held at the world renowned ACE Cafe in London with the Riders joining in their service of Remembrance on the Sunday with our brand new standard on display for the first time and having recruited a further 204 members.
2007 was by Legion Branch standards a phenomenal recruiting year with 421 new members to November, with more events, more shows, the first use of the MDU and participation in many Legion in the Community events, where we show our support to local Legion Branches by turning up en-masse to help support their efforts. This years Poppy Run run saw some 20 Riders travelling around the UK, along the west coast and returning south via the east cost and visiting Edinburgh Castle for a wreath laying ceremony, ending in classic style at the ACE Cafe. The AGM at Greenford RBL was a great success with the evening festivities and a Service of Remembrance once again being held at the ACE Cafe.
2008 kicked off with an unprecedented interest in the branch and in May, our 1000th member joined, a serving British Soldier. Our Poppy Appeal cheque of £10,000 was received by Hayley Westenra, on behalf of the RBL at Pall Mall in April and the branch carried out its Annual Memorial Run in May to The National Arboretum. 20 bikes and a trike escorted Hayley to the Brits Classical Awards at The Royal Albert Hall, whilst the 2nd National Rally at Ratcliffe College was a great success at the beginning of June. Members in Weston-Super-Mare started a weekly bike night on the seafront, which despite the weather raised over £6000 introducing the legion to a whole new generation of members. Our Poppy Run this year took in the Seven Legion Care Homes across the country bringing some light entertainment to their residents. The AGM took place at Oldbury RBL with us parading alongside their members on the Sunday followed very quickly by our attendance at the NEC Motorcycle Show, which was a resounding success.
Since then the Branch has increased membership each year, and is the fastest growing Branch in the Royal British Legion, with over 5000 members in 2012 – and still growing!!.
2012 the Branch has handed over a cheque for over £139,000 for the Poppy Appeal to Simon Weston at Cardiff Castle. The Riders Branch is open to anyone who has an interest in motorcycles and we welcome all new members who wish to support the Legion’s work our way. Our aims are the same today as it was then, to raise awareness of the RBL and how it can help those serving/ex-serving who are in need of help, to raise money for the Poppy Appeal and to have fun, and as we have since discovered these last two ideals are mutually compatible.