The Women’s Section’s origins can actually be traced back 103 years, to 1921, when an unofficial wing of Legion Scotland – or the British Legion Scotland, as it was then known – was formed. The first chair was a Mrs M Thomson of Edinburgh, who served the section for nine years and was eventually made honorary life president. The section’s patron was

Lady Haig until her death in 1939. 

In 1924, the Women’s Section was officially recognised as part of the Legion family and not as a separate organisation, and this is treated as the first years of its history. In the early days, the section organised events for its members. An early record of the Legion states, “Many of the [men’s branches] gladly admit that without the constant and willing cooperation of the Women’s Section, the men’s branches in certain localities would find it much more difficult to keep going successfully”. 

From the beginning, the Women’s Section has served two purposes: standing up for the interests of widows, dependents and families of men (and, of course, latterly female servicewomen) in the Armed Forces, and also widening the activities of Legion Scotland.

When war broke out in 1939, the local Women’s Sections across the country played a vital role in channelling willing volunteers into useful positions. Members, and new recruits, would assist or supervise in canteens, volunteer for the Red Cross, work on Prisoner-of-War committees, organise entertainment for the troops or look after members of the Armed Forces. 

Today, in addition to pursuing its own objectives, the Women’s Section – comprised of around 350 members – offers a huge level of support to local fundraisers, social events, Remembrance occasions and other key commemorations. 

Women’s Section National President Lil Davidson explains, “Our aim is to provide aid and support for ex-servicemen and women. This is carried out by means of fundraising through various activities such as holding quiz nights, bingo evenings, coffee mornings, raffles and much more.” 

Lil, whose husband was the secretary of Inverness branch prior to her joining the Women’s Section, adds, “We are also active in some local branches, assisting with welfare and hospital visits and organising events. All our branches are busy during the Poppy Appeal, helping with anything that enables us to raise funds for this worthwhile charity.” 

Current National Chair Sheila Elrick says she loves the opportunities that the section brings.

“I most enjoy being involved with veterans and the many friends you make,” she tells us. “I also enjoy being busy and trying to help as much as possible for young and old. 

“My parents were both involved with the local branch and they were keen to form a local Women’s Section. That appealed to me too, so I have been in it from day one – a founder member. We still have three founder members in Stonehaven Women’s Section.” 

Lil Davidson adds, “I would say I most enjoy the feeling that we are really helping veterans and that we do have a role to play in today’s society. Due to recent conflicts there are a lot of younger veterans now, and they may not need our help at this moment, but we will continue on so that in the future we are there for them if they need us.” 

This year’s Women’s Section Conference on 14-15 June offers a chance to celebrate the centenary year, along with the usual mix of Legion business. Delegates and guests will be able to enjoy some tapestries created specifically for the anniversary by members of the section. These tapestries will go on display at New Haig House, and a judging panel will help to choose a winner. 

The conference will also include a civic reception at Edinburgh City Chambers, followed by a parade and the laying of wreaths at the Stone of Remembrance. 

If you would like more information on this, or any of the Women’s Section’s activities, please get in touch via your local branch.