May 23 2013 Latest news:
Ian Weinfass, Senior reporter
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Where in the world would you find the top fundraising Royal Marines Assocation district branch? Right here in Havering. Ian Weinfass spoke to branch chairman Les Wright about the group’s work.
From the City of London to the Gold Coast of Australia, the Royal Marines Association has branches which span the globe – and they all work to raise money for charity.
But it’s a branch that meets in Hornchurch which has raised more than any other in the world in recent years.
The East Anglia Region has been recognised as the most successful fundraising area for the past three years running, and the Romford and District Branch has raised more than 70 per cent of each year’s total.
The branch raises money to support servicemen and women injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, the families of those who died in service and veterans of previous conflicts.
Branch chairman Les Wright reflected on the fundraising success: “We’re chuffed about it and it’s nice to get recognition for your work, but that’s not the most important thing,” he said.
“Until three years ago when our region first won it, we didn’t even know there was a prize. What amazes us is the generosity of the public, who don’t stop giving.”
He explained: “We have a very good relationship with most local supermarkets and are fortunate that they support our servicemen and women wholeheartedly, so you will often come across us collecting somewhere in Havering.”
Formed in March 1995 by a small group of former Royal Marine Commandos, the first chairman was Ron Todd, the former chairman of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and one of the most influential trade unionists in the country.
At his funeral at Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club’s Victoria Road ground in 2005, attended by Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Tony Benn, the association formed a guard of honour with members of the Royal Naval Association.
Les has fond memories of his predecessor. He said: “We didn’t agree about politics, but he was such brilliant company. What impressed me most was that he was man of principle – at his funeral they laid on a London bus as he wasn’t the type to have a fancy car.”
The branch strives to continue the work started by its founders and is currently helping to raise money for The Fisher House Project, a multi-sports rehabilitation unit in Birmingham, which will provide a lifeline for some of the most seriously injured veterans.
Les added: “There are many projects which benefit our servicemen and women that we have undertaken and there will be many more needed.
But he explained: “Being a member of the association is not all work, we have a very active social calendar which includes dinner dances, nights at the dogs, and much more.”
The branch meets on the third Wednesday of every month at the Royal British Legion Club, High Street, Hornchurch at 8pm.
For more information call Les on 01708 509 673.