Early 20th century poppy sellers

Our History

The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-Servicemen that had established themselves after the First World War.


The main purpose of the Legion was to care for those who had suffered as a result of service in the Armed Forces during the First World War, whether through their own service or through that of a husband, father or son.

As a result of the war, Britain's economy plummeted and in 1921 there were 2 million people unemployed. Over six million men had served in the war. Of those who came back, 1.75 million had suffered some kind of disability and half of these were permanently disabled.

Then there were those who depended on those who had gone to war - the wives and children, widows, and orphans, as well as the parents who had lost sons in the war, on whom they were often financially dependent.


At the Unity Conference held at the Queen's Hall on 14-15 May 1921, The Legion was formed with the amalgamation of four other associations:

  • The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers (1916)
  • The British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers (1917)
  • The Comrades of The Great War (1917)
  • The Officers' Association (1920)

The amalgamation of these diverse bodies can be attributed largely to two men: Field Marshal Earl Haig and Tom Lister of The Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers. Lord Haig served as the President of The Royal British Legion until his death.

By 1921, the tradition of an annual Two Minute Silence in memory of the dead had been established. The first ever Poppy Appeal was held that year, with the first Poppy Day on 11 November 1921.

We were granted ‘Royal’ status in 1971, and extended our membership to serving members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, as well as ex-Service personnel, in 1981. Now, anyone can become a member of The Royal British Legion. We welcome men and women of all ages, whether they have served in the Armed Forces or not, to continue the work that was begun nearly 100 years ago.

Poppy Appeal Posters

Poppy Appeal Launches