Burnhams RBL to fold

On parade for the last time.   From left - Valerie Hewitt, Stafford Snell and Clifford Hewitt ANL-150227-150728001

On parade for the last time. From left - Valerie Hewitt, Stafford Snell and Clifford Hewitt ANL-150227-150728001

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The men’s section of the Burnhams branch of the Royal British Legion is being forced to fold up its standard after 91 years of proud service.

The move is happening because it has an ageing membership and has lost two stalwart officers recently.

Down to 11 members, the section heard on Thursday that head office in London had sanctioned the winding up of the branch and that the remaining members will be transferred to another branch of their choice.

Clifford Hewitt, aged 78, who joined in 1957, and Stafford Snell MBE, 79, who enrolled a year later have between them been the backbone of the branch in a variety of positions over the years.

Joining them in retirement is Mr Hewitt’s wife, Valerie, 77, standard bearer for the women’s section for 45 years.

The trio are saddened that the men’s section of the branch, formed in 1924, will soon be no more.

“When we first joined membership was around 50,” recollected Mr Snell. “But numbers have steadily been going down over the last few years,” added Mr Hewitt.

“I joined in 1962 but I haven’t been to meetings for a long time now, though my retirement will not affect the women’s section which is continuing.”

Stafford Snell was treasure for 53 years, secretary for 44 and standard bearer for two years in the 1970’s. Clifford Hewitt spent 44 years as chairman, was the branch’s standard bearer for 39 years and their poppy appeal organiser for 22 years.

None of the Legion’s remaining members, all aged in their late 70s, are willing to take over the positions.

Before joining the Legion Mr Snell, of Croft’s Close, served for three years as a medic with the RAF, mainly stationed in Wales.

After initial training as a mechanic, Mr Hewitt, of Back Lane, was posted to RAF Marham. He said: “It meant that on Wednesdays, which was a sports afternoon, I chose cycling as my sport and cycled home each week, returned by 8am on Thursday morning.”

Both have fond memories of the highlights of their Legion membership.

Each remembers the honour of parading their branch’s standard at the annual Service of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall. Mr Hewitt also carried the standard when The Queen reviewed the Legion at Windsor Castle in 1977 during her Silver Jubilee year.

Not only have the trio’s work been an important part of their life but the connection between them is also one of kinship.

Mrs Hewitt is Mr Snell’s sister and Mr Snell’s wife, Myrtle, is Mr Hewitt’s sister. “I married the Legion and Myrtle the same year,” recollected Mr Snell.

Between the three of them they served the Legion for 168 years. “It’s a very sad day for all of us,” added Mr Hewitt.