The annual gathering of the Royal British Legion Ladies Day was a sunny occasion this year, with regional members from across Yorkshire and the North East gathering at the Allied Air Forces Women’s Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony in the afternoon sunshine. This year’s ceremony was especially poignant as, following a central decision by the Royal British Legion to amalgamate the Women’s Section into the main body, the three Regional Standards of North Yorkshire County, East Riding of Yorkshire and South & West Yorkshire County were to be laid up in the Museum’s Chapel along with that of the Crofton, Walton & Warmfield cum Heath Branch (South West Yorkshire).
British Legion members from across the region were present to mark this special occasion and reflected the diverse membership of this important association. Legion member Bessie Thomas who was proud to be present, having served as an RAF Control Room Operator during World War Two. Bessie was responsible for plotting the inbound courses of enemy aircraft across the region as well as working as a radio operator on our coastline, co-ordinating rescue efforts for downed aircrews returning home from missions. We’re sure she won’t mind us sharing the fact that she is a sprightly 92 years old.
Following a parade of 19 Standards, with the salute being taken by the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr. Barry Dodd CBE, wreaths were laid at the Womens Memorial by the Lord Lieutenant, followed by Lady Feversham, President North Yorkshire RBLWS; Mrs. A.J. Murray MBE, Vice President Durham RBLWS; Mrs. D. Ingham OBE, President East Riding RBLWS; Mrs. H. Crosby, South & West Yorkshire RBLWS and the Yorkshire Air Museum’s Director, Ian Reed.
A two minute silence gave us all a moment to reflect upon both the sacrifice of the many people from two World Wars and also the continued need for organisations like the British Legion. As some veterans pass away, other members of the armed forces come to need their support and will do so for many years to come. To use their own words, “To The Memory of the Fallen and For The Future of The Living”
After a short service in the Chapel, the three Regional Standards of North Yorkshire County, East Riding of Yorkshire and South & West Yorkshire County were officially laid up, each with the simple but highly emotional statement, “I commit this Standard of the Royal British Legion Women’s Section to you for safekeeping in this Chapel for evermore” with the response by Museum Chaplain Rev. Squadron Leader “Taff” Morgan who confirmed our commitment to ensure that they would be preserved here.
Director of the Museum, Ian Reed commented, “We are very proud and indeed humbled to take these treasured Regional Standards, which mean so much to those that have carried and marched with them at many memorial ceremonies, into our care here at Elvington. Our Station Chapel is indeed a fitting place for these symbols of friendship and Remembrance to rest.”
The Women’s Section of the Royal British Legion was formed in 1921 to safeguard the interests of wives, widows and children of men who had served in the Great War. They continue to support the entire armed forces community today, with more than 30,000 members across the world. More information on the Royal British Legion here.