Profile: Redbridge pensioners’ champion John Coombes

John Coombes

John Coombes - Credit: Archant

At the age of 74, John Coombes could be forgiven for wanting to put his feet up. But the former councillor prides himself on being active and is the chairman of not just one, but two groups.

John Coombes

John Coombes - Credit: Archant

Mr Coombes has led the Barkingside Royal British Legion in its current form since 2006, while he has also been the chairman of Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum since 2010.

And the army veteran, who recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Pauline, 69, said his roles were such a significant part of his life that he wouldn’t be hanging up his hat anytime soon.

Mr Coombes, who received a campaign medal while serving in South Arabia in the 1960s, said: “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I’m a very proactive person and I must keep my brain and body active.”

The dual roles mean his day-to-day life varies considerably.

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Mr Coombes, of Oaks Lane, Newbury Park, said: “It is a case of working out the priorities. I check my emails and make phone calls to see where we stand on current issues.

“I kind of do three or four different jobs in one day, which is not so easy, and you still deal with all those normal home issues.

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“But I can multitask!”

A key part of being a chairman is heading up meetings. The Barkingside Legion, which has 47 members, meets every two months, while pensioners’ forum members get together twice a month.

One of the most significant dates in the legion’s calendar is Remembrance Sunday, which members met to discuss on Monday.

They talked about how many cadets should attend the Memorial Chapel event, in Newbury Park, and what the layout would be like.

Mr Coombes also spoke to representatives from the Army Cadets, as the legion hopes to form a youth group with “new blood”.

This year’s Poppy Appeal is another priority.

Mr Coombes, who is also the legion’s treasurer and deputy poppy appeal organiser, said: “We are already recruiting for the poppy appeal and have welcomed four new members to the branch. It is all down to volunteers and we cover about five wards.

“It is not something you do [just] before the event – it needs to be done much before then. You have to make sure you have all the names and the places.

“These are fiddly little jobs in a way, but they need to be done.”

Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum campaigns on a variety of issues and its meetings, at Redbridge Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford, are regularly attended by between 90 and 100 people.

One topic it is focusing on is dementia care in the community.

The group also hopes to establish a stronger relationship with the council.

Mr Coombes said: “We would really love to meet with officers and cabinet members. We do get a lot of information from bodies like the Redbridge CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and Age UK, but we would like to talk on a local level with officers.”

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