Message from the Grand President
General the Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO DL
It has been a year of highs and lows for the League. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our Patron for over 70 years, came as a great blow to all our Member Organisations across the Commonwealth.
Her Majesty’s deep interest and commitment to the League began in June 1951 when she attended, as the then Princess Elizabeth, the 11th Conference Reception hosted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her Majesty was deputising for our Patron His Majesty King George VI who was unable to attend due to illness. By the 12th Conference in 1953, Her Majesty had graciously agreed to succeed King George VI as our Patron. Indeed our 12th Conference in London was less than a week after her Coronation on the 2 June 1953. The support that we have received from The Royal Family for over 100 years has been outstanding. It continues today, exemplified by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the then Earl of Wessex, now Duke of Edinburgh, hosting our 34th Conference Reception in St James’s Palace on 28 September 2022, just a few days after the period of Royal Mourning following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
That our 11th Conference was held in St James’s Palace in 1953 and 69 years later in 2022 our Centenary Royal Reception in the same Palace, is tangible evidence of this incredible link between the League and The Royal Family over the last century.
My tribute to our Patron Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022 follows but amongst the sadness of Her loss came the commemoration and celebration of our 34th Centenary Conference in London on 24 September 2022. That 39 Member Organisations were represented by over 100 delegates was remarkable and I thank all those who made the trip to London to make the conference a very special and uniquely memorable 5 days. There will be more coverage later but I, like many who were present, will not forget the incredibly moving Service of Remembrance in the Guards Chapel when wreaths were laid for all Nations of the League and for the first time, we sang God Save The King.
Of course, it is the veterans and widows who we, together, support that are and always will be the unifying focus of the League. It is right that we celebrated our 100 years of commitment to them and their service while fully recognising the amazing efforts of our Member Organisations. None of this though would be possible without our generous supporters and I finish by once again thanking the Service Charities who are also members of the Commonwealth Veterans Review Committee for their moral and financial support.
Message from the Deputy Grand President
Major General Mitch Mitchell CB MBE
The DGP role has several responsibilities, but one is always a pleasure; saying thank you. So can I start by first saying thank you to you all for your unwavering efforts and dedication to supporting our veterans and their widows in their hour of need. It has been another terrific effort this year.
My next thank you is to our Grand President, General the Lord Richards of Herstmonceux
GCB CBE DSO DL, for his Message opening this year’s Annual Report. It reminds us of the huge commitment and sad loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and just how grateful we are to our Grand President and Lady Richards for their own personal and genuine commitment to the League.
Our Centenary Conference in September 2022 was held in Canada House in the heart of London’s Trafalgar Square. Another thank you must go to His Excellency Mr Ralph Goodale, the Canadian High Commissioner for the United Kingdom and Ireland, for allowing us to meet in this magnificent setting and for the support of his incredible team. His Excellency was also able to join us at the poignant Remembrance Service in the Guards Chapel at the beginning of Conference, where watching the laying of wreaths by all our members organisations left me with a tear in my eye and a visible understanding of just how global our effort is. Canada House is our home in London, and it did not disappoint. I should also mention our Conference accommodation venue, the Army and Navy Club, which allowed us to enjoy their wonderful history and atmosphere during the 5 days of Conference.
We had some very important business to attend to and were delighted that Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG KC, a Friend of the League and Chair of the Commonwealth Veterans Review Committee, was able to join as our first Guest Speaker. We were also incredibly fortunate that our subsequent guest speakers, both role models, could find the time to address Conference. Colour Sergeant, now Warrant Officer Class II, Johnson Beharry VC COG and Lieutenant General James Bashall CB CBE, National President of the Royal British Legion, both delivered memorable addresses to Conference.
Much was discussed and debated during the Regional Discussion Groups and the plenary session in Canada House. The widow’s eligibility criteria was amended, and Conference passed two key Resolutions concerning the future of the League. After more than 100 years of service we must be ready for, and manage effectively, the next 5 years or so. Naturally, if very sadly, our beneficiaries will fade away and the time will come when we cease to be a going concern as a Charity with our beneficiaries and so purpose gone. The timing of such a cessation is largely dependent on two conditions: first, the decline of beneficiaries and the second, our financial position.
On the former we hope this ‘decline’ will be slow as our veterans and widows live for longer.
Rest assured, the Senior Management Team, Executive Committee, the core League staff and I, are fully engaged with our future as a going concern. My final thank you for this year goes to them for their incredible commitment and wise counsel. Next year will be crucial and I look forward, with confidence, to reporting that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office have continued their generous support to our veterans and widows and that we have mapped out a way ahead for the next 5 years.