“The British Legion was the greatest pacifist organisation in the world.”

This was the description given by the President of the Girvan Branch of the British Legion on the formation of the newly formed Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston Branch of the British Legion on 10 April 1924 at Castlecraigs, now Ardrossan Civic Centre.

Terminology makes some information confusing, but it could be that the separate towns kept their individuality when it came to membership as there is reference to sub-groups, however the election of office bearers indicates there was not a structure in place prior to April 10. 1924 .

Bringing in the president from another branch to conduct the formation also indicates there was nothing local.

So a single branch was formed encompassing Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.

If you can imagine back to the 1920’s there were thousands of ex servicemen in the community with most having experienced the horrors of war, some with physical and mental injuries with nowhere to turn.

In the community there were established groups such as the churches, Masonic, railway workers and others but at the time there was no group for ex servicemen.

As we are now aware, group sharing of experiences can be part of ‘letting go’ of horrific memories, sharing stories with like-minded people, mutual support, common experiences and language that civilians cannot understand.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The Legion branch organise Remembrance events in the Three Towns

So in 1921 a number of charities merged and became the British Legion under the leadership of Lord Haig.

Branches started to appear around the UK and in Scotland. We also know from news articles that the ‘Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston Branch’ of the British Legion, was active and organised a gala, in Auchenharvie Grounds Stevenston, for Lady Haig’s visit in September 1929.

The reason why the British Legion was described as the biggest pacifist organisation in the world is because it’s membership, ex-servicemen, had experienced the futility of war. 

Over the past 100 years Legion Branches have closed, re-opened, evolved, membership has decreased, increased, clubs have formed and dissolved.

However locally the Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Stevenston Branch  which has not been immune to difficulties in the past, is still in existence, still helping veterans and their families, we are working as hard as ever not only in the Three Towns but also in the wider area.

We are doing prison visits, hospital visits and home visits to our veteran community and much, much more. We offer two social platforms for our ex-servicemen and women to get together.

Members also work in the community such as in the foodbank and driving for cancer charities.

Membership of the Legion is now open to non-veterans and we have welcomed many new members to our ranks with their valuable assistance.

We are all volunteers, no one gets paid and we rely on raising the funds to support our actions and community Remembrance events.

The Herald's report on April 11, 1924 began: 

A meeting, under the auspices of the recently formed branch of the British Legion was held in Castlecraigs, Ardrossan, on Thursday evening of last week. Captain James Robb, R.S.F. presided, and there was an encouraging attendance of those interested in the movement.

The principle speaker was Mr Knott, chairman of the Girvan Branch of the British Legion, and prior to the commencement of the business proper, Captain Robb asked Mr Knott to decorate  Col-Sergt. Hughes, Ardrossan, with the first badge of the Legion.

Col-Sergt. Hughes joined up in 1855, and is consequently the oldest member of the newly-formed Ardrossan branch and the first to wear the badge in the district.

Mr Knott said the Col-Sergt Hughes had worn the badge of three British Sovereigns, and he was pleased to see him at their meeting and looking so well.

Col-Sergt Hughes briefly returned thanks.

Look out for photos of the Legion's birthday celebrations online on Monday, with more in next week's Herald.