I have written previously about the plight of those men who fought in the Great War and survived.

Of these around 1.5M had been wounded. In many cases they were severely disabled, either mentally or physically.

Very little sustained assistance was provided for these men by the government, even their pension was often gradually reduced and became means-tested.

Even those who were still able-bodied, some 4M men, needed rehabilitation and ‘’Social Services’’ were virtually non-existent at that time.

Ex-servicemen were literally starving in the street. Added to this, many of the 800,000 men who had been killed left behind widows with children.

At the national level various charity organizations had been set up during the war to help wounded ex-servicemen and their families. These were supplemented by many local initiatives around the country.

In 1920 the government was increasingly concerned that these voluntary groups were becoming disorganized and losing focus – some were being politicized, putting forward candidates at elections, and therefore threatening the establishment.

The government therefore appointed Field Marshal Haig, who had been Commander of the British Expeditionary Forces from 1915 to the end of the War, to arrange the integration of these disparate bodies.

The four main charities The Comrades of the Great War, The National Association of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors,The National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Soldiers and Sailors, and the Officers Association, all amalgamated to form the British Legion on 15th May 1921.

To celebrate the Legion’s 50th anniversary Royal Charter was granted on 29th May 1971, allowing the Organisation to become the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The RBL still thrives today and has around 2,800 Branches, including over 90 overseas. The membership is about 430,000. Although perhaps best known for its Poppy Appeal, the highest profile charity appeal in the country, the RBL has always been engaged in many other activities to support ex-servicemen and their families.

In High Wycombe after the war the town became the centre for training ex-servicemen in the skills required in the furniture industry (see the Nostalgia page December 20 2013 for more information about this scheme).

The local initiatives included an announcment in the Bucks Free Press edition of February 28 1919 under the heading ‘‘Military Oil for Mental Machinery – A Wycombe Experiment’’.

This scheme recognised that men who had served in the Army might require their mental faculties to be re-tuned to the ‘requirements of modern commercial thought and life’.

A concentrated series of lectures were provided each evening in the Oakley Hall, which older readers will remember was adjacent to the All Saints churchyard, complemented by a lending library at 16 High Street.

The High Wycombe Branch of the British Legion was formed in Aug 1921, making it the 8th oldest in the country. Initially it was called the British Legion and ex-Servicemen’s Club.

In around 1924 the club was based in premises in Priory Road in a building which had formed part of Frogmoor Brewery. This building extended from Frogmoor east to Priory Road.

In the early 1930s the branch had a membership approaching 500. This included a Women’s Section, under the chairmanship of Mrs A Rivett the wife of the founder of the Murrays department store Reginald Rivett, with 120 members.

In 1932 the Club, with Dr L CC Reynolds as President, Mr A S Forward as Chairman, and Mr F H Dring as Treasurer, decided that their work was being hampered by lack of accommodation at the Priory Road premises. They began a search for a new site.

One was soon found – the site of the old Bridge Mill in St Mary Street. This had been partially destroyed by fire in May 1932. The area of the site was 1,280 sq ft, compared to just 390 sq ft at the Priory Road premises.

Funds were raised with the enthusiastic help of RBL members, including founder member Frank Adams, and the site was acquired from Lord Carrington early in 1933 at a cost of 800 pounds. Further funds were raised and the building work commenced in June 1833.

At a cost of c.5,000 pounds a ‘substantial and spacious building’ was constructed. On the ground floor this consisted of a ‘billiards hall, a clubroom, bar, ladies room, a committee room, a reading room, and a large card room’.

On the first floor there was ‘a concert/lecture hall, to seat 170, with a small stage, a retiring room, and a dance floor’. Also a ‘commodious flat for the steward’. The fittings and furnishings for the building cost c.500 pounds.

As readers will be aware this building still exists, and is still in use by the Royal British Legion. The immediate surroundings have however changed extensively.

The attractive view of the old St Mary Street has been replaced by Swan Theatre at the rear of the building, and the elevated dual carriageway at the front.