THE chairman of Swindon’s Royal British Legion is calling on the town to rally round the branch after its Remembrance Day show was cancelled for only the second time in 27 years.
Alan Baker told of his disappointment after the annual event at the Wyvern Theatre was called off because of a lack of sponsors and dwindling ticket sales in recent years.
The show had been a mini version of the Festival Of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which is attended by the Queen, and included standard bearers, choirs and bands.
Chelsea Pensioners used to be invited to spend the weekend being wined and dined in Swindon before attending the event.
Mr Baker said: “It was a very hard decision to take.
“The show has only been cancelled on one other occasion in its history, and that was because of an asbestos scare.
“We needed £2,500 to put it on and the sponsors didn’t come forward.
“We put it on in the afternoon last year because a lot of the pensioners didn’t want to be out late in the dark, but we had no more people.
“We can’t afford to subsidise it ourselves so we have had to cancel it.”
The legion used to have a club in Havelock Street but no longer has its own building and meets at the Southbrook Inn in the town centre.
Membership is down to a handful of people, compared with more than 2,000 when the branch had its own premises.
However, Mr Baker believes the legion can enjoy a more prosperous 2013 and the show can make a comeback next Christmas.
He said: “Next year we are going for gold. We want to bring back the show and are appealing for sponsors to come forward and help us.
“Someone like Zurich or Nationwide could make a lot of difference and we really appreciate what they do for good causes in the town already.Without a doubt we will put a show on next year.”
New members are also welcome to join the branch and do not have to be service veterans.
The branch is counting the proceeds from its Poppy Appeal, with the total currently standing at £21,000 before other donations are included.
Frank Pepler, of the Wiltshire Guards Club, said: “It is a big disappointment. We have provided a standard bearer pretty much since it started really. We hope it returns next year.”
Anyone interested in joining the Swindon branch of the legion, or sponsoring the event, should contact Mr Baker on 431 214 or Shirley Smith on 435 912.