“KEEP on doing a fabulous job” is the message to the Royal British Legion (RBL) from a Blaenau Gwent councillor, as the charity were given the freedom of the borough at an online ceremony.
On Thursday, November 4 at an extraordinary meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, councillors conferred the honour to commemorate the charity’s centenary.
The decision to confer the honour was actually taken back in July, and Cllr Malcom Day who chaired the meeting in the absence of Cllr Julie Holt, asked councillors to reaffirm their decision, which they did so unanimously.
Blaenau Gwent’s Armed Forces champion, Cllr Brian Thomas said: “The freedom of the borough is the highest award the council can give, and I’m delighted to take this opportunity to recognise the dedication and the work by countless volunteers through our local branches.
“It also reflects the strong support of communities here in Blaenau Gwent for our Armed Forces.
“Unfortunately, this award couldn’t be presented in person today, but at a later date.”
Anthony Metcalf of the Royal British Legion said: “Thank you all, it’s a real privilege, honour and blessing to be here today to receive this.
“This is also in recognition of the wide range of people in the county borough who raise funds every year for the vital work of the RBL as we support the armed forces community.
“This year is a very special year for RBL, it marks the centenary of our formation on May 15, 1921.
“It was formed in the aftermath of what was then the most destructive war the world had seen (World War One) and brought together four ex-servicemen’s organisations under one unifying umbrella.”
Mr Metcalf told councillors that the first poppy appeal in 1921 had raised £106,000, equivalent to £5.3 million today.
Mr Metcalf added: “The fact that we still exist 100 years later is a testament to our ability to adapt and change.
“Over the last 100 years we have stuck to our three main aims, that of welfare, campaigning and remembrance.”
He explained that each year the legion receives over 100,000 requests for help and £1 million is spent a week helping care for veterans and their families.
He added that RBL volunteers had also been involved in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, helping at hospitals, vaccination centres and transporting vital PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).
Mr Metcalf added: “As the legion celebrates 100 years we are under no illusions that our work is done, and we stand ready to hold governments to account, to support where there is a need worldwide and to continue to uphold remembrance as a source for social good that’s relevant to all communities.”
Cllr Day told councillors that he had personal experience of the legion’s work. when his father died a number of years ago.
Cllr Day said: “I didn’t realise the amount of support you give to bereaved families, my mother in particular was really appreciative of all the help.
“You do a fabulous job, keep on doing it, and we in Blaenau Gwent will do everything we can to help you.”
The council motion recognised the work of the Abertillery, Beaufort, Blaina, Brynmawr, Cwm, Ebbw Vale, Rassau and Tredegar branches.