Gillingham RBL needs your help

The Gillingham Royal British Legion Club needs your help if it is to avoid closure on 30 June.

As reported in today’s Medway Messenger, the club is in financial difficulty and needs your support to keep going.

The club, in Livingstone Road, has been running for 74 years, but has hit hard times in recent years with the difficult financial climate keeping people away.

Now they need to find £40,000 to stay open – otherwise their fundraising efforts for the annual Poppy Appeal will be put in jeopardy.

Jayne Mellor-Mackay, who has been a member for six years, told the Medway Messenger “Last year we raised £50,000 for the Poppy Appeal and we won’t be able to do that next year if we don’t have this club.”

The club is also popular with supporters of Gillingham Football Club, who provide a vital boost on match days before taking the short walk to Priestfield Stadium. Indeed such was the club’s popularity when the Gills faced AFC Wimbledon at the end of the season, the club was forced to turn people away because it had reached capacity.

The club has a special place in my heart – dare I say more so than the recently closed RAFA Club. I have been a member of both the club and branch since I was 18, but I have been a supporter for far longer.

My membership was proposed (at his insistence) by my (now late) grandfather, a Life Vice President of the branch. On that sad day in March 2010, the club openly welcomed our family and friends in to the club for his wake and for the service the branch provided the Standard which will shortly be my duty to bear.

I have volunteered, through my membership of the Air Cadets and since of my own accord, to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal every year since I was 13 (bar 2011 when I was living in Birmingham) and I have been planning since November to take on a bigger role within the local Poppy Appeal.

It will be a sad and heartbreaking day if the club is forced to close and I would add my voice to those echoing around at the moment to support the club.

In particular, I would strongly urge all current club members to attend the forthcoming EGM to discuss the club’s future and anyone else who wants to support the club should contact them directly.

The number of veterans clubs in Medway has dwindled at an alarming rate. It would be a major blow to Gillingham and to Medway to lose the Gillingham Royal British Legion Club as well.

UKIP will support and strengthen Armed Services

Royal Marines. Photo: © Crown Copyright 2012

It was the late Margaret Thatcher who once correctly observed that “the defence budget is one of the very few elements of public expenditure that can truly be described as essential”.

Indeed, throughout her time in office, Baroness Thatcher won many friends amongst the large Armed Services family in the UK for supporting her brave boys more than most post-war prime ministers.

Since she left office, however, successive governments have raided the defence budget, squeezed the capability for operational deployment and hacked away at troop numbers. This dysfunctional coalition of posh boys with little real world experience is no different, and their attitude to our armed services was a key factor in my decision to leave the Conservative Party.

The days in which ex-servicemen swamped the House of Commons are long gone, but that does not mean that their interests are any less relevant. Perhaps just as importantly, our national defence interests are jeopardised by a bureaucratic and political Ministry of Defence led by a succession of defence secretaries with no military experience, paying lip service to our forces family whilst disgracefully turning their backs on them.

I have seen the effects of willful inaction and unrelenting cuts through my involvement with the Royal Air Forces Association and the Royal British Legion. I have also seen the effects of government cuts passed on to the cadet movement since my recent return to the Air Cadets.

That is why I was pleased to see the UKIP Defence Policy 2013, released this week, make disbanding the MOD over the course of a parliament one of their priorities. They (rightly) say:

Soldiers, sailors and airmen win wars- not civil servants no matter how worthy. The Ministry of Defence is not fit for purpose, nor has it been for many years – and it is very expensive –the cost of keeping 85,000 civilian staff alone will run to the order of £6 billion per year.

The UKIP policy goes into some detail about what would replace the MOD:

UKIP will disestablish the MOD, removing both the responsibility for procurement and for defence doctrine and management. A new defence ministry will be created, with primacy given to the Central Staff over civil servants. The civilian role in framing policy and strategy will cease and be left to educated military professionals.

Responsibility for the planning and conduct of operations will pass to the Chief of Joint Operations (CJO). The new ministry will have no role in this function, thus making it a Department of State rather than a military HQ.

Defence procurement will be overseen by a slimmed down and independent Defence Procurement Executive with a brief to equip the armed services with such systems and manpower as they need to achieve the government’s strategic objectives. Single service chiefs should have direct input on weaponry, platforms and logistic budget without political interference. Defence doctrine and management will return to the individual armed forces. The government of the day should, like service personnel, command ‘one down’ having established appropriate direction.

The linkage will be restored within the single services between operational analysis, doctrine, training and equipment procurement.

There can be no place in the future for equipment procurement on the basis of lobbying by constituency MPs. Jobs can be secured through striking deals with manufacturers to assemble and service equipment under licence in UK, but the services, and the defence and security of the country, cannot be held hostage to the whims of individual MPs or local political issues.

UKIP will ensure that, once the new organisations are in established, shadow ministers are brought in to the procedure to ensure strategic decisions are continued beyond the parliamentary life span.

I would thoroughly recommend anyone interested in the defence of the realm, particularly the role UKIP believes our services should be playing and how much money should be invested in defence, should read the full UKIP Defence Position. It goes into some, honest, detail about UK defence and answers many questions which have been raised about their policy in this area in the past.

Crucially, it establishes UKIP as the only party in the UK which is committed to both protecting the interests of our service personnel and national defence, the only party in the UK to formally recognise that self-interested pen-pushers in Whitehall are not as important (in fact, significantly less so) than the brave men and women who put their bodies on the line on a daily basis to protect us.

UKIP is the only party in the UK which can be trusted to honour our covenant with our Armed Services.

Birmingham Mail letter: Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Appalled by Legion cheat

SPEAKING as both a law student and Royal British Legion volunteer, I was horrified to read about the actions of Geoffrey Henrick in the Birmingham Mail (February 22).

Where I live in Medway (I’m here in Birmingham visiting family and friends), I have been volunteering to raise money for the Poppy Appeal since I was 12 and have supported the Royal British Legion for most of my life.

It makes me sick to the stomach whenever governments (of whatever persuasion) betray the trust and relationship they have with our services and ex-services community, but to discover that the betrayal has come from a holder of immense responsibility and trust within an organisation that has campaigned tirelessly for our Armed Forces family since its inception kills a little of the faith I have for humanity.

Alan W Collins, by email

For background to this letter, see this article in the Birmingham Mail.

Medway blogger attacks anti-war protesters for vandalising charity billboards

Medway blogger Alan Collins has attacked anti-war protesters for vandalising billboards advertising the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Mr Collins, a member of the Royal British Legion and the Royal Air Forces Association, as well as a former member of the Air Training Corps, expressed his anger at the tactics used by the protesters.

“The whole point of the Poppy Appeal is to promote and finance support for servicemen who have fought bravely and professionally for our freedom,” Mr Collins said.

“They fought, and in many cases, died to give us the freedom to protest, not to give us the freedom to commit criminal acts.

“I’m not saying I don’t disagree with what the protesters are saying. There are many questions that need answering about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this is not the way to go about getting heard.”

Alan Collins has long been a supporter of Britain’s Armed Forces, helping to collect money for the Poppy Appeal for the last few years, and his comments came after vandalism of the billboards with messages including “For their sake, bring ’em home” and “For their sake, prosecute Blair” angered him.

Mr Collins added: “the Poppy Appeal isn’t about arguing about which wars are just and which should never have been entered into. It’s about supporting and helping our servicemen and women for their bravery and professionalism.

“The fact that these people have manipulated the Poppy Appeal campaign for their own political protest is, quite frankly, disgusting.”