About the Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion was formed in 1926 with a membership of 50,000. The Legion’s commitment to the Remembrance of those who gave their lives for peace and freedom is as valid today as it was then.

Today the Legion is one of the largest community service organizations in Canada with more than 500,000 members and approximately 1,700 branches in Canada, the USA and Europe.

The British Columbia-Yukon Command has oversight of all the local community Branches in the Pacific area. This huge area is divided into Zones, each Zone having a regional responsibility to support and co-ordinate inter branch activities. A Zone Commander with a Zone council assists in governance. The Fraser Valley Zone covers Abbotsford (Abbotsford, Clearbrook, Matsqui, Sumas), along with Aldergrove, Chilliwack, Vedder Crossing, Hope and Mission and other community Branches.

Branch 15 – Abbotsford

Branch 15 Abbotsford exists to uphold and serve the Royal Canadian Legion purposes and mission to the wider community. The work of the Branch is carried out from facilities located on West Railway Street. The branch received its Charter in 1927 therefore 2017 is the 90th Anniversary of the branch.

The Branch is the frontline, “boots on the ground”, face of the Legion. It is at this local level that the needs of Veterans are met. The Veterans are those who have given of themselves in World War, Korean War, Cold War and the Peacekeeping activities of the Canadian Forces over the past 70 years.

There are currently just under 400 members of the Branch. In addition there are a large number of Veterans and spouses who are served. The Ladies Auxiliary is a major contributor to the life and work of the Branch. There are activities that include the planning and carrying out of national memorial events such as Remembrance Day and Vimy Ridge Day Candlelight Vigil annually. The facilities provide a club house atmosphere for social and recreational benefit of members. Organized recreation such as darts, cribbage and bingo are played in the lounge. Dinners and dances are supported by a kitchen and bar regularly.

The Branch main charity work is carried out through the Poppy Fund, an annual campaign carried out in the community during Remembrance Week every year. The Branch Service Officer provides assistance to Veterans for various needs, doing so in a completely confidential manner. The funds of the Legion also support the Cadets, some sports for youth, senior activities and services, spousal needs, and some bursaries for academic students. If you have a need or know of someone in need who qualifies as a Veteran, contact the Branch office and ask for the Service Officer.

Veterans are all those who have served in the Canadian Forces and some Royal Canadian Mounted Police service. Branch 15 exists to be in touch, give support and recognize all Veterans living in our community area. To do this mission relies on the membership volunteers who do an outstanding job. You are invited to become a member and be part of The Royal Canadian Legion fellowship.

History of the Royal Canadian Legion

The Great War (World War One) was the event that made servicemen in Commonwealth countries begin to form organizations that led into what we know today as “The Legion” in Canada, Britain and South Africa, “Returned and Services League” (RSL) in Australia, “Returned and Services Association” (RSA) in New Zealand and “The Indian Ex-Services League” in India.

The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia was formed in 1916; Canadians founded the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA) in 1917 and other smaller organizations were formed such that there were fifteen in total, the GWVA being the largest.

The losses were staggering in World War One, as we are too well aware. Canada with a population of approximately 8,000,000, sent over 600,000 service personnel overseas, and between 57,000 to 65,000 of these (almost 10%) did not return. Many that did return had suffered horrible and debilitating injuries both physical and mental. Statistics state that almost 150,000 military were wounded.

More enlightened now, we realize that the mental problems left many persons severely handicapped in ways that were not understood.

Great Britain’s statistics showed that 6,000,000 had served in their Armed Forces and 725,000 did not come back. Of those who did, 1,750,000 suffered some form of disability. Unemployment increased after World War One as economies suffered, to make matters worse for the returning servicemen.

Hence, formation of the different organizations during the war to help servicemen (Veterans) when they returned home after the War, only became more necessary.

Realizing the hardships of Veterans as they returned to civilian life, three prominent solders, Field Marshal Earl Haig (who had been the Commander In Chief of the British Empire (Commonwealth) forces in the latter half of the War), General the Right Hon. J C Smuts of South Africa and General Sir H T Lukin, founded the British Empire Services League (BESL). Today this is called the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. The inaugural meeting was held in Cape Town, South Africa on 21 February 1921.

The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, uniting the four National organizations of ex-Servicemen that had been established since 1916 during the War.

In Canada, the GWVA and the other groups (totalling fifteen) all strived to help returning servicemen in need, but not being united meant their efforts were largely unsuccessful. Field Marshal Earl Haig visited Canada in 1925 and urged the different organizations to merge, which they did in November 1925, to form the Dominion Veterans Alliance in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was incorporated by an Act of Parliament, and its Charter issued in July 1926. The membership at that stage was approximately 50,000.

The historical development of the “Legion organizations” in the other previously mentioned Commonwealth countries will be dealt with in later articles.

Building on the aims of the groups formed in 1915, the Canadian Legion’s initial aims were to provide a strong voice for World War One Veterans and advise the government on Veterans’ issues.

The Canadian Legion grew steadily from then on and throughout the 1930s, when it concentrated on the re-establishment of Veterans, advising them on pensions and other benefits that were available from the Federal Government. The Legion had to expand its concerns after World War Two, when it had to increase its efforts to improve the lot of Veterans, ex-Service members, and their families.

In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II granted the Legion royal patronage and our organization became the Royal Canadian Legion, the name with which we are familiar today.

The Royal Canadian Legion continues to serve Veterans by bringing their concerns to the attention of the Government of Canada. Since the beginning, the primary aim has been service to the Veteran, other ex-service personnel and their families.

The Legion, and its Branch executive and volunteers, engages in public and community service activities and events, in order to remind Canadians of those who have served their Country in War and in Peacetime.