Recalling 90 years

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EX-serviceman Fred Richardson was born the same year that the Gainsborough and District branch of the British Legion was formed.

The 90-year-old, who served with the Lincolnshire Regiment during the Second World War, is the oldest member of the legion, which celebrates its 90th anniversary tomorrow.

The Gainsborough branch of the Royal British Legion are celebrating their 90th anniversary G110622-1a

The Gainsborough branch of the Royal British Legion are celebrating their 90th anniversary G110622-1a

It was formed on 1st July 1921. Fred’s father Frank was one of the founder members, along with Ernie Wildbore, who had a furniture shop in the town, and Charlie Baines, who was a councillor.

Fred, who is vice-chairman, joined the legion in 1946 when he came home at the end of the war.

He said: “My father helped to set it up because he had seen action in the First World War.”

“He was wounded at the Dardanelles by shrapnel and was gassed. When he was brought back, he ended up in Cardiff hospital and nearly died.”

“He got a war pension of £1 a week and he believed in the legion and the work it did helping ex-service people.” Frank remained a legion member until he died in 1949.

Fred was 18 when the Second World War broke out. He served on the Lincolnshire coast, using search lights and weapons to help defend the country.

His duties for the legion include visiting people and helping with the annual poppy appeal. It’s not compulsory to have served with the Armed Forces to join the legion, which is open to anyone.

The poppy appeal continues to go from strength-to-strength, raising £16,000 in Gainsborough last year. Current conflicts like Afghanistan making the organisation just as necessary today as it was when it started just a few years after the First World War.

Gainsborough branch chairman Michael Wragg said: “People tend to think that we’re just linked to the two world wars and that Help for Heroes is for Afghanistan and Iraq, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We work with Help for Heroes, and the legion has committed £50m to personal recovery centres which help injured service people with rehabilitation.”

Legion member Bill Gabbott worked as a medical orderly in a rehab centre in Berkshire when he was in the RAF so has seen at first hand the work they do.

He said: “We treated officers and air crew from all three services. A lot of them came back from the Second World War with polio.”

Former mayor of Gainsborough David Lomas is the branch president, an honorary title he has held since he joined in 1998.

He said: “A lot of people can find it difficult when they go from one day being a service person one day to a civilian the next.”

“Statistics show that among the unemployed, drug addicts, the homeless and alcoholics, there is a high percentage of ex-service people. The legion can help people with the transition into civilian life and give support.”

Anyone interested in joining the RBL should call Michael on 616852 of or Mary Cook on 613441.

To watch a video interview with Fred Richardson and Michael Wragg go to www.gainsboroughstandard.co.uk.