British Legion’s ‘service not self’ motto extends beyond ex-forces

0
935

Formed just five years ago with 15 members, the Royal British Legion Thailand now boasts more than 300 members, branches in Pattaya and Chiang Mai, eight trained caseworkers and a welfare and fundraising effort that collected 1 million baht last year for ex-servicemen, their dependents and even Thai causes.

The main fundraiser of the year remains the “Poppy Appeal,” but events are scheduled monthly through June to help those in need in the ex-services community and their dependents throughout the world.

Graham MacDonald, president of the Royal British Legion Thailand presents Prince Andrew with a Legion Coin.Graham MacDonald, president of the Royal British Legion Thailand presents Prince Andrew with a Legion Coin.

The Royal British Legion has many things it can do and some it cannot. For beneficiaries it can provide advice on war pensions, compensations, disability claims, hospital and housebound visitors and immediate-needs grants. The Immediate Needs Program is designed to help get individuals through a temporary crisis and covers such things as household goods, priority debts, food, clothing, funeral and housing costs among other things.

What the legion can’t do is provide loans or clear business debts, cover legal expenses, pay for care homes or pay for medical care. (It works with Almonise along with other charities to help pay for medical care.)

Secretary Bert Elson welcomes Prince Andrew.Secretary Bert Elson welcomes Prince Andrew.

There are a number of conditions that need to be met before welfare services can be provided, of course. Primary among those is verification of service.

In addition to helping traditional beneficiaries, legion members this year pledged to help the Thai Veterans Hospital. While the legion cannot donate funds under its own name, members have pooled funds through sponsor Tropical Bert’s pub and guesthouse. More than 100,000 baht in medical equipment for the Thai Veterans Hospital in Bangkok was raised, mostly to go for a large supply of needed adult diapers.

Bert introduces the Prince to our oldest member Brian Davidson.Bert introduces the Prince to our oldest member Brian Davidson.

Legion members also helped both Banglamung and Chonburi hospitals as a thank you from not just the legion, but expats and tourists who find themselves under their care. While those with private insurance will usually end up in a private hospital if injured or ill, the legion’s welfare staff visit people in the government hospitals with little or no insurance or funds to cover their care.

Banglamung is often the fist port of call for these people to be assessed and treated. If their condition is serious, they will be transferred to Chonburi Hospital, which has better facilities. Both are very busy government hospitals, with Chonburi putting about 1,000 people in a space with just 852 beds. Staff levels and facilities may not match private hospitals, but patients are generally treated as best as they can be.

Banglamung Hospital was short of wheelchairs, so 10 were provided. Chonburi was given a vital signs monitor for its intensive-care unit.

Besides hospitals, members also donated more than 40,000 baht in flood-relief goods last year.

With such outreach, the welfare fund needs constant replenishment. It got a boost when the George and Dragon Bar entered the Pattaya International Bed Race, raising 25,000 baht.

HRH meets the Navy lads.HRH meets the Navy lads.

The next fundraisers will be April 25 – ANZAC Day, with two events. One will be a team of cyclists pedaling from Hellfire Pass to the ANZAC DAY service. The second will begin six days earlier cycling, kayaking and walking from Three Pagodas Pass to the service. Sponsorships can be signed up for at Tropical Bert’s or Shenanigans Jomtien.

Other upcoming events include “Gurkha Curry Night” May 5 at Tropical Bert’s with the Gurkha guards from the British embassy down to provide an all-you-can-eat dinner. And June 2 will be the Queen Elizabeth II jubilee night. Details to follow later.

The Prince chats to Richard and Tam Holmes.The Prince chats to Richard and Tam Holmes.

Regular meetings are held each Sunday at 2 p.m. at Tropical Bert’s. Membership is open to all. The only pre-requisite is a belief in the legion’s motto of “service, not self.” Membership is 800 baht per year, with 600 baht of that going directly to help run the organization at the head office. The balance remains at the branch level.

The legion has a busy social calendar. A good example was the Feb. 29 visit by 50 legionnaires to meet with Prince Andrew. The Duke of York was in Thailand and took the time to meet with legion members at the embassy’s social club.

The duke took time to meet and chat to all members and their wives, including our oldest member, Brian Davidson, and members of our welfare team. He also presented a “Friend of the Legion Certificate” to the British embassy for the help it has given the legion over the years.

Prince Andrew presents British Ambassador Asif Ahmed with a Friend of the Legion Certificate.Prince Andrew presents British Ambassador Asif Ahmed with a Friend of the Legion Certificate.

Chatting with the wives.Chatting with the wives.

Open Forum!

Presenting Dr. Kunagorn Wongtimarat, head of Social Welfare Chonburi with a vital signs monitor.Presenting Dr. Kunagorn Wongtimarat, head of Social Welfare Chonburi with a vital signs monitor.

Some of our elder members at the Thai Remembrance Day.Some of our elder members at the Thai Remembrance Day.

Thai Veterans Hospital.Thai Veterans Hospital.

Flood relief Items in tropical Bert’s.Flood relief Items in tropical Bert’s.

10 wheelchairs for Banglamung Hospital.10 wheelchairs for Banglamung Hospital.

The lads at the start of the Bed Race.The lads at the start of the Bed Race.

The end of the bed race, well done!The end of the bed race, well done!