The Royal British Legion Swiss Branch was created in 1947 by British and Commonwealth ex-Servicemen and women who came to live and work in Switzerland after the Second World War. Currently, the branch has about 120 members; plus volunteers that help to promote and support our cause. Over the years, it has successfully renewed itself by enhancing the dynamism of the committee through the recruitment of younger members from amongst the UK’s professionals working in Switzerland. The committee members ensure that the Poppy Appeal fundraising goes from strength to strength to provide welfare enabling resources to beneficiaries based locally or in the UK. Being a non-profit organisation, our activities focus on fundraising, welfare support and ceremonial duties, under rules of a Royal Charter.
Many of our members have either served in the British Armed Forces or Commonwealth Forces, or simply have the interest to support a military welfare charity. Anyone can become a member or volunteer to join our committee. The committee meets regularly to manage the strategy and find solutions to improve our fundraising opportunities which ultimately provide the necessary welfare to those in desperate need; mentally and physically.
The majority of fundraising is achieved through the annual Poppy Appeal throughout Switzerland and Europe by a network of branches. Every year, the Swiss branch receives a shipment of poppies and collection boxes from the UK. These are sent to corporate organisations, schools, churches and sports clubs. Many companies and international organisations, such as the United Nations, support us by either allowing distribution on their premises or by making direct donations. Thanks to the huge team effort nationally, the Swiss branch is able to collect CHF 35,000 on average, annually; however the work to keep this going year-upon-year is enormous. The communication, the administrative and logistical work, all take time and dedication by our wonderful volunteers. In this globalised world, companies evolve, move their headquarters, or relocate supportive staff. Every year, it is a big job to keep those distribution points active as well as finding new ones. Every October, thousands of poppies and several hundred letters are distributed in order to appeal to people’s generosity.
The Poppy Appeal allows us to help local beneficiaries, as defined in the Royal Charter. These beneficiaries are people who have either served in the UK Armed Forces or are direct family members who have, and now require our assistance on a means-tested basis; to improve their living conditions or help them get their life or career back on track. With the money raised, we help serving personnel, veterans and their families in need of support in Switzerland; the remainder of the money is sent back to the UK. This money is used in many ways; such as debt management, disabled access home improvements, 24-hour care phones, mobility aids, legal advice, dedicated care homes for veterans, and specialist centres for mentally or physically wounded soldiers recently back from combat duties overseas.
As a charity, the Royal British Legion supports the work of many other military charities as a central source for a wide range of welfare benefits but it is also the UK’s national custodian of Remembrance. The Swiss branch is no exception and takes part in many events, open to the public throughout the year. For example:
- ANZAC day in Vevey,
- VE Day, in Lausanne,
- The French commemoration of the liberation of the Haute-Savoie in Chaumont,
- The Geneva parade ceremony of remembrance in Mon-Repos,
- Remembrance at the Commonwealth War Grave in Vevey
Anyone can contribute to helping the Royal British Legion Swiss Branch continue its welfare and social work as we need young people with innovative ideas to carry our message across the country using social media, personal networks, or improve our website. Some examples might be: to set up a poppy campaign in your school by simply getting in touch with us to provide the necessary fundraising materials; or you could tell us about a shop, a sports club, a church or corporate organisation that would be willing to get involved in the Poppy Appeal; or perhaps you might be more innovative to raise funds in a more imaginative manner and we’d love to hear from you.
Alternatively, you may have a friend or relative who has served in the armed forces who might be in need of welfare support. In this latter case, we would be grateful to be notified of these people to assess their personal needs.
Socially, the Swiss branch holds an Annual General Meeting, followed by a lunch which is open to anyone with an interest in our organisation and includes an interesting and distinguished guest speaker who presents details of historic military battles or conflicts. This year, we are pleased to announce that the lunch will be held in Geneva, at the Hotel Montbrilliant, on Saturday 18th of November; with Major (Retired) Alan McDade making a presentation about his double-life experiences during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
If you would like to know more about the Royal British Legion Swiss Branch, please visit our website, or our Facebook page to get in touch.