Royal British Legion celebrates 50 years in Lisbon.jpg

Royal British Legion celebrates 50 years in Lisbon

A WEEKEND of festivities marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Royal British Legion’s Lisbon branch, a charity that aims to provide material support and comradeship to ex-service personnel and their families.

Celebrations began on Saturday night when more than 20 guests – including Major Michael Stilwell, a founder member of the Royal British Legion’s Portugal branch – enjoyed dinner at the Beefeater Pub in Cascais.

On Sunday morning, guests gathered at St George’s Anglican Church in Estrela for Holy Communion. Addressing the congregation, Father Michael Bullock said the Royal British Legion (RBL) set an example of remembrance – not of nostalgia – and that the armed services provided people with shared memories and beliefs. He conceded that the importance of the services had been downgraded in the public’s perception over the last half century, especially with the abolition of compulsory national service. But he said that the forces still played a vital role, whether on active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, or providing disaster relief in Pakistan.

Following the service, guests assembled for drinks at the Lisbon residence of the British Ambassador to Portugal, John Buck, who paid tribute to the charity’s work. “The Royal British Legion is an organisation that has a strong history in Portugal. The Embassy and I are happy to support the Legion’s work and the veterans based here,” he said.

Commander Ron Goddard, the current branch chairman of the Lisbon RBL and the former Embassy Defence Attaché, told The Resident’s Gabriel Hershman that the RBL’s Lisbon mission remained unchanged. “It’s essentially the same as when it was founded 50 years ago – to arrange for the sale of poppies on Remembrance Day in November, and also to provide an umbrella organisation that meets the welfare needs of ex-service personnel and their dependents”. He conceded that the organisation’s task had become more taxing due to the exigencies of Portuguese charity law, something that had created additional burdens for the national committee.

Ron Goddard also read out a letter from Prince Andrew in which he conveyed his best wishes to the Lisbon branch and expressed his regret at having to decline an invitation to attend the celebrations. Among the many guests at the service and at the Ambassador’s reception were Peter Wilkinson (the chairman of the Algarve sub-branch of the Royal British Legion) and his wife, Sandra, Commander Neil Sibbit, the current Defence Attaché at the British Embassy and Lewis McRae, from the American Legion, who had travelled all the way from Georgia. Mark Hanmer, the RBL’s Lisbon representative, also attended, as did Air Commodore Paul Colley, the commanding officer at the NATO base in Carcavelos.