THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION

WHEN AND WHERE IT BEGAN:

SHORTLY AFTER WORLD WAR ONE, THERE WAS A DEPRESSION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. THE ECONOMIC DISTRESS SUFFERED BY THE PEOPLE GENERALLY HIT THE VETERAN CLASS HARDEST, MOSTLY BECAUSE OF GAS TYPE INJURIES, AMPUTEES,  AND THOSE SUFFERING FROM TRENCH DISEASES, SUCH AS ARTHRITIS, DAMAGED FEET AND LIMBS.

IT SEEMED THAT THE WOUNDS OF WAR WERE UNDERSTOOD TO BE A MATTER OF FACT AND AN EXPECTED RESULT OF WAR, UNFORTUNATE THOUGH THEY MAY BE.

A NEIGHBOURHOOD GROUP OF VETERANS IN LONDON'S "EAST END", A CLOSELY KNIT COMMUNITY, MET EVERY EVENING AT THE ELEPHANT AND CASTLE TAVERN NEAR THE VICTORIA BRIDGE RAILWAY STATION. THEY BECAME RESENTFUL THAT THE "NOBS" (THE NOBILITY OR UPPER CLASS PEOPLE) WERE SO DISINTERESTED AND UNSYMPATHETIC IN THEIR PLIGHT. THEY FORMED THE “LONDON SOLDIERS, SAILORS AND AIRMEN'S WELFARE LEAGUE”. THEY ESTABLISHED THEIR HEADQUARTERS AT THE FAMOUS ELEPHANT AND CASTLE. THEIR OWN FAME SOON SPREAD THROUGHOUT ALL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM, AND BECAME A NATIONAL CLUB KNOWN AS THE BRITISH SERVICE MEN'S LEAGUE.

AS THE DEPRESSION GREW WITH AWESOME AND VERY DISTRESSING EFFECTS THROUGHOUT THE WESTERN ECONOMIES , THE PLIGHT OF SERVICEMEN SEEMED TO BE THE VICTIM OF THE SAME TORPOR AS EXISTED IN THE UK. IMMIGRANTS TO VARIOUS PARTS OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE, MOSTLY EX-SERVICEMEN WISHING TO ESCAPE THE DIRE CONDITIONS AT HOME, DISCOVERED THE SAME CONDITIONS IN THEIR NEW COUNTRIES OF ADOPTION, SUCH AS CANADA AND BEGAN PLANTING THE IDEA OF A "DOMINION SERVICE MEN'S LEAGUE”. SINCE THE IDEA TOOK ROOT CONCURRENTLY IN THE OTHER DOMINIONS,IT WAS NOT LONG BEFORE THE VARIOUS ORGANIZERS SUGGESTED THAT THEY BECOME NATIONAL BRANCHES OF THE ORIGINAL ELEPHANT AND CASTLE BRIGADE; “THE BRITISH SERVICE MEN'S LEAGUE”. THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE "CANADIAN LEGION OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE SERVICE LEAGUE". OTHER DOMINIONS INSTITUTED SIMILAR OFF-SHOOTS, SUCH AS THE "AUSTRALIAN LEGION OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE SERVICE LEAGUE".

EVENTUALLY, AFTER WORLD WAR TWO WHEN THE DOMINIONS WERE DISSATISFIED WITH THEIR SECOND RATE STATUS UNDER CHURCHILL THE "EMPIRE". GREW INTO A COMMONWEALTH OF BRITISH NATIONS, EACH EPARATE AND AUTONOMOUS. AT THAT TIME ABOUT 1950 AND LATER, ALL ORGANIZATIONS WITH BRITISH ROOTS FLEXED THEIR NEW NATIONAL STATUS. THE “CANADIAN LEGION OF THE BRITISH SERVICE LEAGUE” THUS BECAME “THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION”. ABOUT THE ONLY EXISTING ORGANIZATION WHICH DID NOT, AND STILL IS NOT, IS THE “IMPERIAL ORDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE EMPIRE". IT SEEMS TO BE AN ANACHRONISTIC VESTIGE OF OLD IMPERIALISM.

PURPOSES OF THE ORGANIZATION

THE AIMS OF THE ORIGINAL GROUP IN LONDON WERE TO FIRST MAKE A SOCIAL GROUP TO SUSTAIN MORALE AND OFFER WHATEVER WAS POSSIBLE AS A COOPERATIVE FROM THEIR PRIVATE RESOURCES TO EASE THEIR LOT. THEY BEGAN "TAG DAYS" AND HELD BENEFIT CONCERTS, PUT ON SIDE WALK SHOWS (A LẢ MUPPETS, ETC.) IN 0RDER TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THEIR COMMON GOOD. THEY HAD EXCELLENT SUCCESS AND WHEN THE IDEA SPREAD AND BECAME A NATIONAL MOVEMENT , OTHER ESTABLISHED CLUBS AND NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS BECAME THEIR SPONSORS. SENIOR RETIRED OFFICERS FROM THE "LESSER CLASSES", WHOSE ECONOMIC FORTUNES CAUSED BITTERNESS AMONG THEMSELVES JOINED FORCES WITH THE "SNOBS" (THOSE WITHOUT NOBILITY = SINE NOBILITATE = S. NOB) AND FORMED A PROPERLY CHARTERED ORGANIZATION  OF WHICH WE SPOKE.

TYPES OF FUNDING, ETC.:

THE NATIONAL AIMS TOOK ON THE FLAVOUR OF OTHER NATIONAL “BENEFIT SOCIETIES", SUCH AS THE MASONS ETC. THE MEMBERS FRAMED A CONSTITUTION AMONG THE RULES OF WHICH PROVIDED FOR:

1 - MEDICAL AND ORTHOPEDIC RELIEF FOR WOUNDED VETERANS AND THEIR IMMEDIATE FAMILIES ;

2- HOUSING AND NECESSITIES OF LIFE ;

3- NURSING HOMES AND RETIREMENT FACILITIES FOR VETERANS.

AS THE ORGANIZATION GREW AND BECAME A POLITICAL FORCE, MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT BEGAN TO PROSELYTIZE THE ORGANIZATION WITH, PROMISES " IF ELECTED TO OFFICE". IN THE CASE OF THE BRITISH MEMBERS, THEY FULFILLED THOSE PROMISES. THE MODEL TOOK ROOT THROUGHOUT THE EMPIRE NATIONALLY, THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS INSTITUTED A PENSION PROGRAM. THAT WAS A BEGINNING THAT THE LATER ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION USED TO ADVANCE THE CAUSE OF VETERANS MOSTLY THROUGH THE APPOINTMENTS 0F VETERANS AS MINISTERS FOR VETERANS AFFAIRS. THAT DEPARTMENT WAS INSTITUTED AS A RESULT OF LEGION PRESSURES AND IS THE MAIN SOURCE OF SUPPORT FOR THE CANADIAN ORGANIZATION. THE ONE TYPICALLY VETERAN SOURCE OF FUNDING AND SOLELY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THEIR COMRADES WHO REQUIRE ASSISTANCE, IS THE POPPY FUND. EVERY CENT OBTAINED THROUGH THE SALE 0F POPPIES IS CONSIDERED IN TRUST FOR ANY VETERAN WHO REQUIRES ASSISTANCE EVEN WIDOWS WHO HAVE NO NEED TO PAY FOR FUNERALS. THE POPPY FUND PROVIDES $2,000 FOR EVERY FUNERAL OF A VETERAN.EVERY BRANCH OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION MAINTAINS A COMFORT FUND. THIS FUND IS AN ALLOTMENT BY BRANCHES FOR THE CARE AND COMFORT PROVIDED BY COMRADESHIP FROM VETERANS WHO HAVE BETTER HEALTH. THE COMFORT FUND PROVIDES TREATS AND ENTERTAINMENT FOR HOSPITALIZED VETERANS .

STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS FOR CHILDREN OF VETERANS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY LEGION BRANCHES. SCHOOL ESSAY AND POSTER COMPETITIONS ARE SPONSORED NATIONALLY, BUT BEGAN AS A LOCAL BRANCH ACTIVITY. SPORTS AND CADET SPONSORSHIP IS NATIONAL, WITH LOCAL BRANCHES ELECTING THEIR PREFERENCES WHERE FUNDING MAY BE LIMITED DUE TO NUMBERS OF MEMBERS. THE LIST OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS INVOLVEMENT IS CONSIDERABLE.

RULES OF MEMBERSHIP:

ANY ALLIED VETERAN MAY BECOME A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION, PROVIDED THERE HAS BEEN NO CRIMINAL ACTIVITY OF A NATURE WHICH WOULD PROHIBIT HIS MEMBERSHIP IN SUCH A SOCIETY. THIS INCLUDES MEMBERSHIP IN ANY POLITICAL MOVEMENT WHICH WOULD INHIBIT THE POWER OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE FOR ADEQUATE DEFENCE OF CANADA, OR TO BELONG TO ANY GROUP WHICH HAS AS ITS PRIME FUNCTION THE FORCEFUL OVERTHROW OF OUR GOVERNMENT, SUCH AS THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CANADA OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY.

SINCE THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH IS MADE UP OF EVERY KIND OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY, RACIAL EXTRACTION, AND OTHER CULTURAL COMPLEXIONS THAT MAY SEEM SEPARATE TO OUR OWN, THERE IS NO BARRIER OF ANY KIND TO SUCH MEMBERSHIP. THE BROTHERHOOD OF VETERANS WAS COMPOSED OF ALL COMMONWEALTH PEOPLE EVERYWHERE AND THEIR SACRIFICES WERE NO LESS THAN OUR OWN.

NEARLY EVERY ORGANIZATION CAN BE RECOGNIZED BY A UNIFORM OF SOME KIND TO BE WORN BY THEIR MEMBERS. THIS WOULD BE NATURALLY SO IN THE CASE OF ANY BRITISH ORGANIZATION. EVERY SCHOOL IN THE UNITED KINGDOM IS UNIFORMED; EXPRESSLY FOR THE PURPOSE THAT ANY CHILD MUST APPEAR TO BE NO BETTER NOR ANY LESS THAN ANY OTHER CHILD, DESPITE SOME ECONOMIC DIFFERENCES. IT WOULD BE NATURAL THEREFORE FOR A BRITISH VETERANS GROUP TO ADAPT A UNIFORM. THE AVERAGE BRITISH SOCIETY IS UNINFORMED BY "BLUE JACKETS AND GREY FLANNELS" ; HAVING CLUB CRESTS OR BADGES ON THE LEFT SIDE BREAST POCKET AND "OLD SCHOOL TIE".

THUS IT WAS THAT THE BRITISH EMPIRE SERVICE LEAGUE AND ALL OF ITS DESCENDANTS ADAPTED SIMILAR DRESS. THE DRESS CODE CONSISTS OF THE UNIFORM FOR ALL CEREMONIALS ; ATTENDANCE AT LEGION HALLS FOR OTHER THAN CEREMONIALS IS "DECENT AND RESPECTABLE DRESS" COMPATIBLE WITH COMMON SENSE. AT FULL DRESS CEREMONIALS, SUCH AS CHURCH PARADES, CIVIC FUNCTIONS, MEMORIAL SERVICES, ETC., FULL MEDALS PROPERLY MOUNTED ARE OBLIGATORY DRESS. NOTICE IS USUALLY GIVEN FOR SUCH DISPLAY OF MERIT AND VALOUR .

ISIGNIA AND COAT OF ARMS

SEE ABOVE AS FOR " UNIFORMS'

UNIQUENESS OF "THE LEGION"

THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION AND ALL SUCH LEGIONS IN THE COMMONWEALTH AND UNITED STATES, ARE "VETERAN'S ORGANIZATIONS".

THEIR PRINCIPLE FUNCTION IS TO EXIST AS A BENEFIT SOCIETY FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF, FOR AND BY VETERANS AND WHOMEVER ELSE MAY QUALIFY FOR MEMBERSHIP.

OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ARE ORGANIZATIONS "FOR VETERANS". THEY EXIST AS SOCIAL CLUBS. SOME ARE EVEN PRIVATELY ORGANIZED AS AN ENTREPRENEURIAL SHIP FOR THE SOLE ECONOMIC BENEFIT OF THE OWNERS. SUCH CLUBS ARE :

1- ARMY NAVY AND AIR FORCE CLUBS IN SOME AREAS.

2- VETERANS OF CERTAIN CAMPAIGNS, SUCH AS THE "VETERANS OF KOREA", "VETERANS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR" AND SUCH. OTHER ORGANIZATIONS GREW UP AS A RESULT OF REGIMENTAL BIAS. MANY BRANCHES OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION HAD BEEN "ARMY" ORIENTED, CHOOSING TO IGNORE OR INSULT MEMBERS OF OTHER FORCES, AND/OR NOT PERMITTING SUCH MEMBERS TO RUN FOR OFFICE. THIS RESULTED IN THE ORGANIZATION OF SUCH GROUPS AS:

1- THE ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION,

2-THE NAVAL VETERANS ASSOCIATION

3- THE MERCHANT SEAMEN’S ASSOCIATION, ETC.

AS AGE AND DECREASE OF MEMBERSHIP THROUGH DEATH BROUGHT THE COMMONALITY OF SUCH GROUPS INTO FOCUS, THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION HAS MORE RECENTLY BECOME THE PROPER "HOME FOR CANADIAN VETERANS".

MANY VETERANS DO NOT JOIN THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION, CHOOSING TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS OR EVEN AS A GROUP WITH ANTI-SERVICE BIASES. NONETHELESS, THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION, HONOURS THEM IN DEATH AND DIRE NECESSITY, AS FELLOWS WHO SACRIFICED THEIR PLACE IN SOCIETY FOR A COMMON GOOD: 0UR COUNTRY, AS REPRESENTED BY A NON-POLITICAL ENTITY FOR EVERY CITIZEN WITH NO RELIGIOUS, ETHNIC OR RACIAL IDENTITIES; THE SOVEREIGN.

TO A LEGIONNAIRE, THE QUEEN IS US!