It bounced from location to location before it found its first permanent home, but Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 Nanaimo, one of Canada’s first legion branches, is about to celebrate 95 years serving military veterans and the community.
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 received its charter under the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League in November 1926, mere months after the Canadian Legion was incorporated by an act of Parliament in July of that year.
The Branch 10 Ladies Auxiliary received its charter the following month, but it would be more than two decades of moving from one rented hall to another before the branch created its first permanent home, at 345 Wallace St. in downtown Nanaimo, built and financed thanks to the efforts of volunteers who fundraised in 1949.
With a permanent Legion hall established, the branch members ramped up their involvement with the community by sponsoring fishing derbies, a hydroplane race, a boxing club and youth sports teams and programs, including assistance in development of the Legion National Junior Olympic Track and Field program, a forerunner of the of the Nanaimo Track and Field Club.
In 1958 the Branch 10 Ladies Auxiliary supported the creation of the world’s largest birthday cake for B.C. centennial celebrations. The giant dark fruit cake was 1.9 square metres at its base and weighed 5,000 kilograms, according to information supplied by John Bruce, Branch 10 vice-president.
“Who makes a cake that size?” Bruce asked.
Much of the money for programs the branch has supported the community with over the years was raised from the annual Poppy Campaign and proceeds from other fund-raising events.
Bruce said the proceeds from the poppy drive don’t just help veterans, but are raised to help the community too and Royal Canadian Legion Branches are also there to serve the community.
The branch, now located at 129 Harewood Rd., currently has about 200 members and membership is slowly rising in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the branch is always looking for more people to join.
“We’re not just veterans,” he said. “Anybody like-minded can join as an associate. If their parents or grandparents were veterans, they can join as an associate and anybody can be invited in as a guest by a member. We’re trying to get things going where we’re more of a centre for the community. We’d like to act more as a neighbourhood pub because there’s none around there.”
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 celebrates its 95th anniversary Saturday, Oct. 16, and will have burgers and hot dogs on the barbecue, an open lounge and live music.
Bruce said the Legion will have enough cake for 200 people and there will be a ceremony with a piper and Celtic music starting at 3 p.m.
“We’ve got a couple of tents we’ll be setting up outside. We’ve got a big back yard there,” he said.
To keep up to date on Royal Canadian Legion Branch 10 events, follow it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Branch10LegionNanaimo/.
Legion branches pay tribute to poppy during Legion Week
Nanaimo and Lantzville are two of more than 40 communities around British Columbia and the Yukon recognizing the history of the Royal Canadian Legion and the poppy during Legion Week.
Legion Week is Oct. 10-16.
“Legion Week community events build momentum leading up to the Poppy Campaign and Remembrance Day and honors the duty, service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said Val MacGregor, president of the Legion B.C./Yukon command, in a press release. “Drop in at your local branch to celebrate and learn more about local Canadian history and the poppy.”
According to the Legion, Anna Guérin, inspired by John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, had the idea of distributing poppies on Armistice Day to raise money for veterans and to remember those who died fighting during the First World War.
The poppy was adopted as the flower of remembrance in 1921 by the Great War Veterans Association, which would later merge with other veterans’ groups to form the Royal Canadian Legion.
The Legion remains the largest veterans service organization in Canada with more than 320,000, the release noted.
“The 100th anniversary of the poppy causes us to pause and remember our veterans, and the Canadian values our veterans fought for so our communities could be safe, strong and free,” McGregor said.