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Bury St Edmunds Royal British Legion women's section saved from closure





The women’s section of a Royal British Legion branch in Suffolk has been saved from closure.

Not many people wanted to take up leading roles in the Bury St Edmunds section and as the chairman was retiring, it began to struggle and normally this would mean an imminent closure.

However, Sheila Jeffery, the standard bearer for the women’s section, fought hard to keep it open and is absolutely over the moon with the news.

Standard bearer Sheila Jeffery. Picture: Mark Westley
Standard bearer Sheila Jeffery. Picture: Mark Westley

“I just feel fantastic, and feel like I’ve won a bit of a battle.”

“It means so much to me because my mother was a standard bearer. I'm so proud to carry it for Bury, and Bury’s sort of stolen my heart really.

“My friend (Joyce Ringer from Bury St Edmunds) passed away four years ago and she used to carry the standard I now carry. So when I was asked to take on the role, I did so with pleasure as it's a privilege, and sort of a memory to my friend too.”

Ms Jeffery fought hard to keep open the women's section at Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley
Ms Jeffery fought hard to keep open the women's section at Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley

Ms Jeffery, wrote a ‘very strong’ letter to the RBL women's section headquarters in London and also got in contact with the representative for Suffolk, who attended a meeting with the national committee.

They voted on it and agreed to keep the section open, reducing the number of meetings to two a year as well as an annual general meeting.

Ms Jeffery, from Newmarket, has been made a point of contact between them and the Bury St Edmunds branch and the women's section - which is over 90 years old - will now be supported by the national committee.

"When I was asked to take on the role, I did so with pleasure as it's a privilege, and sort of a memory to my friend too." Picture: Mark Westley
"When I was asked to take on the role, I did so with pleasure as it's a privilege, and sort of a memory to my friend too." Picture: Mark Westley

She said: “I just thought we’ve got to keep it going in Suffolk as there are only two women's sections in the county.

“We’re going strong now, we’re happy and we welcome any new members.

“I am very, very passionate about it all and women can join us whether their ex-service or not.”

Ms Jeffery's inherited her passion from her parents as they were both heavily involved in the Royal British Legion, which is why she joined in 1977.

Ms Jeffery has been the county standard bearer 22 times, with this picture taken in 2018. Picture: Sheila Jeffery
Ms Jeffery has been the county standard bearer 22 times, with this picture taken in 2018. Picture: Sheila Jeffery

Her father, Alfred Webb, was in the Royal Artillery and her mother, Peggy Webb, was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and was also a standard bearer after the second world war in Reading, Berkshire.

“My proudest moment so far has been representing Suffolk when I was chosen to march for the Queen Mother on Horse Guards Parade for her 90th birthday and then again on her 100th birthday in 2000.

“That was really special, exciting and a real privilege.

“Another great moment would be for our late Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002, where I marched up the mall and stood underneath the Buckingham Palace balcony. I just wish my mum had been alive to see it.”

Ms Jeffrey (on the left) at the Horse Guards Parade for Queen Elizabeth, who served from 1936 to 1952. Picture: Sheila Jeffery
Ms Jeffrey (on the left) at the Horse Guards Parade for Queen Elizabeth, who served from 1936 to 1952. Picture: Sheila Jeffery

Ms Jeffery hopes to make more memories like this and is grateful for the support she's received in saving the section with around 15 members.

"I hope that we can move forwards and work alongside the main RBL Bury St Edmunds branch who have given their wonderful support.

"This means so much to me and the existing members. The dedication is never ending."