Grangemouth branch still fighting the fight for forces heroes

02/08/2011'Grangemouth British Legion which is celebrating 90th anniversary this year'l-r front, jan harvey (chairman), mattie mercer (president), maureen preston(secretary)'l-r back - willie haxton (member), william mckie (member)
02/08/2011'Grangemouth British Legion which is celebrating 90th anniversary this year'l-r front, jan harvey (chairman), mattie mercer (president), maureen preston(secretary)'l-r back - willie haxton (member), william mckie (member)

Grangemouth British Legion has supported armed services personnel for the last 90 years - now they will also be supporting their very own football team.

The local branch and club, located in Dundas Street, will join others across the country to mark the major milestone this summer.

And the latest addition to the Legion ranks will help the Grangemouth contingent celebrate during Armed Forces Day on August 27.

Formerly Grahamston Boys, the team has now been re-named Royal British Legion Scotland Grangemouth.

Branch chairman Jan Harvey said: “It was an established team in the area and we have taken it over. We will be going along to their matches and cheering for them.

“We hope to have the team marching in the Armed Forces Day parade in their new strips.”

Those strips feature the Legion colours of yellow and blue – and bear an uncanny resemblance to the Brazilian national football team colours.

It may have taken the Legion 90 years to acquire its first football team, but it has always supported service personnel.

The British Legion came into being in St Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh back in 1921 when, under the leadership of Earl Haig, the idea for a single organisation looking after the welfare of ex-servicemen and women was formed.

Jan said: “We are very proud the Royal British Legion Scotland was formed first – we started in June while the English organisation began in August.”

Jan has been the chairman of the branch for five years, but her association with the British Legion goes back further than that.

“My father, Jerry Differ, served with the Argyll Sutherlands in the Second World War.

“I can remember him going to the Legion when it was in Kerse Road and I was a child.”

Jan served with the Women’s Royal Army Corps and her husband Peter was also a serviceman so it was inevitable she would have some involvement with the Legion at some point.

“I was asked to come along and help out five years ago,’’ she said. ‘‘I came in as chairman and I’ve been here ever since.

“We don’t actually have many female full members at Grangemouth – full members have to be serving or former service personnel or close family members of service personnel.

“Some of our members are still serving in the forces and we have one who was out in Afghanistan recently.”

Grangemouth and Larbert branches amalgamated last year and the future looks bright for the branch and the club despite times which have seen the closure of many premises – including the neighbouring Docker’s Club.

Jan said: “We’re doing all right – not as good as last year, but that might be down to the recession.

“But it hasn’t caused us great problems – we can live with it.”

Sadly the planned dance in Grangemouth Town Hall to mark the 90th anniversary had to be cancelled, but the branch will now celebrate its birthday during the parades taking place in the town on Armed Forces Day.

Jan said: “There will also be a civic reception where the Falkirk Provost will distribute money collected during the year to forces charities.

“The Legion’s aim is to support ex-service men and women and their families in their time of need.

“While we don’t help directly we do give funds to organisations who offer practical assistance to service personnel.”

Grangemouth British Legion regularly raises funds for forces charities like Erskine Hospital, Combat Stress, the Soldiers, Sailors Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and their main charity for 2011 the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA).

There is a strong social side to the Legion too, with entertainment evenings featuring everything from dancing and bingo to darts and snooker.

“And we have our over-60s club – most of whom are in their 80s,” laughed Jan.

Remembrance Day is always a big date on the calendar for the Legion and, like Armed Forces Day, shows how well supported the branch is by the area’s army, sea and air cadets.

Armed Forces Day events start outside the Legion club in Dundas Street at 11.30 a.m. on Saturday, August 27.