Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League

The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL) represents the interests of Commonwealth citizens who have served with either the British or Commonwealth Forces. It was founded in 1921 (as the British Empire Service League) by Field Marshals Earl Haig and Jan Smuts to link together the various ex-service organisations throughout the Commonwealth.[1]

Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League
FoundersEarl Haig,
Jan Smuts
TypeEx-service organisation
Registration no.231322
Legal statusCharity
HeadquartersBorough High Street
London, SE1
United Kingdom
Region served
Official language
Elizabeth II
Grand President
Prince Andrew
Deputy Grand President
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux
Secretary General
Christopher Warren
Formerly called
British Empire Service League


The archives of the League are retained at its headquarters in London (UK). The papers include minutes of the Council from 1952 onwards and those of the Executive Committee; reports of the Triennial Conference since 1921; annual audited accounts; and subject and correspondence files referring to individual ex-servicemen's organisations in various countries. A full set of the magazine Our Empire is also available. Special permission is required for access to the papers and further enquiries should be addressed to the Secretary-General.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Cook 2006, p. 244.
  2. ^ Cook 2006, p. 244.


  • Cook, Chris, ed. (2006). The Routledge Guide to British Political Archives: Sources Since 1945. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-32740-4.

External links

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In some cases, such as Sight Savers International and the English-Speaking Union, they operate outside the Commonwealth, but are still considered a part of the Commonwealth Family, as they still operate predominantly within the Commonwealth.

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List of veterans' organizations

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In 1986, Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson; the couple's marriage, separation and eventual divorce in 1996 attracted a high level of media coverage. As well as carrying out various official engagements, he served as Britain's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment until July 2011.

Returned and Services League of Australia

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Royal Canadian Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit Canadian ex-service organization (veterans' organization) founded in 1925. Membership includes people who have served as military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police, Royal Canadian Air, Army and Sea Cadets, direct relatives of members and also affiliated members. Membership is now also open to the general public.

Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association, best known simply as the RSA, is one of the largest voluntary welfare organisations in New Zealand and one of the oldest ex-service organisations in the world.

Wounded soldiers returning from the Gallipoli Campaign founded the organisation in 1916, and it received royal patronage in 1920. The RNZRSA celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2016.

The RSA's commitment to service personnel in need is embodied in Poppy Day when red poppies are exchanged for donations to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to raise funds for the welfare of all service personnel and their families. Poppy Day is usually observed on the Friday before ANZAC Day (25 April), New Zealand's national day of commemoration.

Remembrance plays a special part in the life of the RSA. A moment of silence is generally observed daily at RSA club rooms in memory of comrades. On ANZAC Day and on other special anniversaries, local RSAs play a significant part in wreath-laying ceremonies of remembrance. As of 2014, 103,574 members support a network of 180 local RSAs throughout New Zealand. RSA membership is open to everyone. The badge is still one of the most familiar icons in New Zealand.

The 'local RSA' is a well-known meeting place or restaurant where anyone is welcome.

South African Legion of Military Veterans

The South African Legion is the oldest military veterans organisation in South Africa. It is referred to simply as the SA Legion or even 'The Legion' and is one of the largest independent military veterans charities in South Africa.

As the oldest military veterans organisation in South Africa and one of the founding organisations of the international Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL), the South African Legion was formed at the 1921 Empire Conference (28 February to March 4) in Cape Town, South Africa as the British Empire Services League (BESL, South Africa) by joining the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Association and the Comrades of the Great War, after which the Comrades Marathon is also named. On 8 April 1941, it was decided to call the organisation the South African Legion of the BESL as national feelings were increasing and members wanted to emphasise their South Africanness.The Legion is an active member organisation of the RCEL and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is the High Patron of the Legion.

The headquarters of the Legion were originally in Bloemfontein in the centre of the country, but moved to Johannesburg in 1942, where it still is, housed in the South African National Museum of Military History.

The name was altered again in 1958, to suit the changing times, to the SA Legion of the British

Commonwealth Ex-Services League (BESL). The BESL has since changed its name to the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League.

The South African Legion's national website states "The Legion is a national, non-sectarian and strictly non-partisan in relation to politics."

The Legion is often mentioned in television news bulletins and websites, not only in connection with its remembrance activities, but also warning military veterans of scams aimed at them.

As a non-racial military veterans organisation, the SA Legion has long remembered the tragic loss of the SS Mendi in which more than 600 Black South African soldiers died. The Legion's UK Branch, made up of former South African servicemen and women, has also held a memorial service near the site of the sinking. The commemoration is held in Atteridgeville, Pretoria and Soweto, as well as in Port Elizabeth, which linked with British historians to find missing headstones, and other major centres including Cape Town. South Africa instituted a new Armed Forces Day in 2013, which commemorates the loss of the Mendi.Remembrance Day is commemorated in Cape Town at the Cenotaph in Heerengracht Street, in Johannesburg at the Cenotaph in Harrison Street and in Pretoria at the Union Buildings. The Legion holds commemorations throughout the country, including Pietermartitzburg, capital of Kwa-Zulu Natal Province.

The Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion (RBL), sometimes called The British Legion or The Legion, is a British charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants.

Veterans Association of Ghana

The Veterans Association of Ghana is an association of former servicemen and women of the Gold Coast Regiment and the Ghana Armed Forces.

It started originally as the Gold Coast Legion was formed in 1944 as a branch of what was then known as the British Empire Services League. It is now the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. The first patron of the association was the Governor Sir Alan Burns. It became the Ghana Legion on the Gold Coast attaining its independence from the United Kingdom.

The legal basis of the association is currently bound by a 1974 decree of the National Redemption Council, the NRCD 285. There are currently proposals for its overhaul but these are still in the discussion stages.

Nonetheless, VAG formerly known as Veterans Association of Ghana is now Veterans Administration of Ghana

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