Ilford Legion stalwart spent life helping veterans
PUBLISHED: 11:37 26 October 2012
After seeing his father campaign on behalf of ex-servicemen and after spending many “happy hours” at a Royal British Legion club, one young boy was inspired into a career as a military historian, ignited by the first hand accounts he heard from veterans.
Andrew Boyd, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, recalls spending most of his early life at the club house in Durban Road, Seven Kings alongside his late father, Norman, a Second World War veteran.
The club, which was forced to close at the end of September due to a lack of members and funds, was where Norman began his tireless work for ex-soldiers and their families.
Mr Boyd, whose birthday falls on November 11, said: “Our lives revolved around the Legion. My father was a co-founder of the cricket and football team and he was active with the welfare committee, helping returned servicemen find homes, medical care and legal help.
“He later served as president and he was awarded the Legion’s gold badge.”
Norman’s wife Beatrice, a former member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who now lives in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, said: “When the Cricket Club first started my two children were very small and I used to make the sandwiches and cakes for the club members after their match in Seven Kings Park. We had a lot of fun.
“In the early days Norman and a few of the chaps would run drives, including dances and talent shows to make money for the club.
“He also sat on a committee for ex-servicemen who came home and didn’t have a house, so they would sit with the council for hours to arrange them.”
The family emigrated to the US in the 1960s, settling eventually in Pennsylvania, where Norman served three terms as the mayor of a small town.
Mr Boyd added: “He never, ever gave up working on behalf of ex-servicemen and women, even in his new life. He maintained contact with members of the RBL until his death nearly five years ago.
“When the sad news of the pending closure reached me, it brought back thoughts and memories of the many hours I spent at the Royal British Legion (RBL) while growing up.
“My subsequent interest in military history can be traced to the men who were members of Ilford RBL. It was a priceless education.”
Mr Boyd’s son, Simon, is also following in his grandfather’s footsteps after graduating from the United States Military Academy, West Point, and has served two tours in Iraq.
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