Foundation

The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League was founded in1921 at the Empire Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.The League’s aim is to ensure that no pre-independence Commonwealth ex-service manor woman shall be without help if in need. The Founding Member countries of theLeague are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The World Wars

After the First World War, the appalling level of attrition and casualties had left large numbers of dependants and disabled service men and women, and civilians, requiring urgent help. Three million Commonwealth soldiers fought in this war of which 440,000 were casualties. The role which the League undertook during this period covered assistance with pension advice, migration to other countries, tracing lost relatives, mail transfers of money and assistance with disability claims. A key aspect of the Second World War had been the contribution of 4.5 millionCommonwealth service men and women from the Indian sub-continent, Africa and the Caribbean of which 360,000 became casualties. The government of some of the countries which had provided service men and women to fight for our freedom either ignored the needs of the ex-service men and women who had fought for the Crown or considered that to be a responsibility of the UK Government. In 1982 the need for more funds to help those ex-service men and women receiving no pension or any help from their own government was so urgent that the Prince Philip Appeal for Commonwealth Veterans was launched.

The League Today

The League currently has 56 member organisations in 49 Commonwealth countries where 40,000 eligible veterans havebeen identified. It acts as a linkfor ex-service organisations throughout the Commonwealth and provides welfare for thosein desperate need. Financial support is also given toself-help projects that willgenerate local income. The League helped in excess of 10,000 veterans in each of the years up to 2015. The League has a staff of four who work from an office in Haig House, Borough High Street, where it is co-located with the Royal British Legion. Recently, the League has responded to the care crisis in Zimbabwe, and has provided help to the veterans and widows who have lost houses and possessions in natural disasters across the world. The League also acts as the overseas agent for over 40 UK-based Service Charities.

The South African Conference

RCEL organises a Conference for delegates of all Member Organisations representing 50 Commonwealth Countries every 5 years. The 33rd Conference is being held in Cape Town, South Africa in early 2021 and will celebrate our Centenary.  The Conference is supported by the South African Legion of Military Veterans. The Conference is being organised from HQ RCEL in London with the assistance of Mr Godfrey Giles, the National President of the South African Legion of Military Veterans.

Why they volunteered

What made 5 million people from the Commonwealth volunteer to fight the Second World War alongside the 6 million British Forces? Who were these people and what motivated them? They were people who believed in freedom and were happy to fight alongside the 'mother country' to make this World a safer place.

They weren't called up. They didn't have to join us. They chose to.

They came from all over the Commonwealth, a million from Canada; 2.5 million from the Indian sub-continent; from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, the Far East and from across Africa.

The Commonwealth people were rising up to support Britain and to fight for the freedom the World enjoys today. That was 70 years ago. Today, many countries are now independent and with that independence came new governments - governments which in some cases refused to recognise the contribution made by these brave people because at the time, they were serving under the Crown.

What is the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League?

The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League was founded in 1921 by Field Marshal Earl Haig and General Smuts. The inaugural Conference in Cape Town was attended by seven founder members from ex-service associations of the 'Old Commonwealth' countries.

The League's aim, as defined then is to: "ensure that no Commonwealth ex-serviceman or woman is without help if in need."

This aim remains the main purpose of the League today.

 

RCEL - Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League - Registered Charity No. 231322 - Haig House, 199 Borough High Street, London SE1 1AA, United Kingdom - Telephone +44 (0)20 3207 2413

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