Beth, 19, from Cawston, flies the flag for future of Royal British Legion Women’s Section

Beth Cook, standing young and proud, is flying a flag for the future of a long-established organisation she joined three years ago, at the tender age of 16.

Beth, a trainee milliner from Cawston, will be inaugurated at the end of this month as deputy standard bearer for Norfolk Royal British Legion (RBL) Women's Section.

Like many other women's groups founded in the last century, it is a body which has struggled in recent years to recruit younger members and Beth's support has given the sisterhood renewed hope.

'When I was younger I watched my grandfather Ronald Beall , who is Drayton RBL standard bearer, parade through Norwich and it made me feel very proud. I decided I wanted to join the legion too,' said Beth who, as standard bearer for the Reepham women's section branch, has been spending a busy Remembrance week at events and services. Her mum Jan is also a member of the branch.

Beth believes many of her peers are only aware of the legion at the time of its Poppy Appeal and thinks the women's section could help its cause with her generation by allowing members to wear trousers rather than skirts on formal occasions, and by targeting its posters and other publicity material directly at a younger audience.

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Beth is also hoping to devote time next year to talking about the legion in school assemblies, explaining its work supporting former and current servicemen and women and their dependents.

'I want to tell them that it's not about a lot of old people getting together,' she said. 'We have fun and do a lot of fund-raising throughout the year. I did a sponsored walk through Reepham with people in their 80s - I wore my PJs. We also sent 3,000 troop parcels out to Afghanistan.'

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Hazel Kingswood, county and Aylsham branch chairman, said the women's section was having to adapt to a world where many women worked full-time.

In the past 20 years branch numbers had fallen from 66 to 34. However, they were fighting back. The Mundesley branch recently celebrated its 85th birthday with a recruitment drive and now boasted 85 members.

And North Walsham has just seen officers doubling-up roles so that the branch can survive another year, during which it hopes to attract new members.

Branches were open to new fund-raising and other ideas to add to a varied mix which included bingo, quizzes, a model-railway exhibition, concerts, and tea dances. She added: 'Come and join us - it's good fun.'

? For information contact Lesley Willcocks, 01263 734115, email:

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