Birkenhead Royal British Legion to celebrate centenary with open day this Saturday

The Royal British Legion is based on Park Road East within the boundary of Birkenhead Park. It was opened in May 1921 by Sir (Tom) Fredrick Lister KCOBE, who gives the building its name – Sir Fredrick Lister House.

This Saturday, 24 July, there will be a slightly belated centenary open day between 2pm and 6pm with a licenced bar, bouncy castle, RBL history display, RBL stall, BBQ, bowls demonstration, an ice cream van, a cake stall, and a raffle, all to raise funds for the upkeep of the building so that the branch can continue its support for armed forces veterans.

Lister was born in Manchester and was educated at Tranmere higher grade school. He worked as an insurance clerk in Liverpool and when the First World War broke out in 1914, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was wounded in action and discharged in 1916.

At the time, there was little assistance for armed forces veterans, and Lister joined the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers (NFDDSS). He later took over the presidency of the NFDDSS and proposed a merger with other veterans’ organisations to form the British Legion just a little over 100 years ago on 15 May 1921.

Along with Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, Lister founded the British Legion in offices in the building on Park Road East. A Royal Charter was granted in 1926, and the organisation was subsequently known as the Royal British Legion (RBL).

So, Sir Frederick Lister House can quite legitimately lay claim to being the birthplace of the RBL, the organisation we all know today through their annual Poppy Appeal.

Lister died at his home in Birkenhead, aged 79 in 1966, but his legacy lives on.

Yesterday, in glorious Wirral sunshine, birkenhead.news spoke to Branch Chair, Tanya Cawood about why the Birkenhead Branch of the RBL needs your help.

Lance Bombardier Fred Lister came back from the trenches and he found some of his comrades were homeless and sleeping rough up on Bidston Hill. So, he made it his mission to take up soup and blankets for the men there.

Then, in 1920, they decided to buy the two properties on Park Road East to provide shelter for the veteran soldiers, making this the founding branch of the British Legion.

I get at least two or three phone calls every week from veterans asking for assistance and we provide guidance for them all.

Since 1921, the branch has helped thousands of veterans and continues to do so to this day. Welfare for veterans in Wirral is still a pressing issue.

Tanya, who in addition to her work at the RBL, runs her own business, continued, “We’re all volunteers here and I close my business for three weeks each year to coordinate the Poppy Appeal.”

The money that is raised through the Poppy Appeal can’t be used at branch level. “People think that because a lot of money is raised through the Poppy Appeal, we can easily afford the rent and pay the bills. But, all the money raised during the Poppy Appeal goes towards veterans. So we have to do fundraising events at branch level so we can remain open.”, Tanya explained.

Following a number of break-ins and vandalism at the property, funds are needed for repairs and maintenance and general upkeep of the building.

Please support the Open Day and if you can’t make it, please consider donating at https://gofund.me/d928c47e

Royal British Legion Open Day
Saturday 2th July, 2pm-6pm
Par Road East, Birkenhead. CH41 4BE

The first-ever Royal British Legion premises on Park Road East, Birkenhead.

Main image: RBL volunteer, Julie Mercer (L) and RBL Chair, Tanya Cawood (R) outside the premises of the first-ever Royal British Legion. Credit www.fotopiaimages.com

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