70th Anniversary of the Melbourne Legion Branch #510

Written by JoAnn Galbraith.

Melbourne, ON: On Wednesday evening October 17th, the Glencoe & District Historical Society celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Melbourne Legion Branch #510 at their building in Melbourne. President Lorne Munro welcomed those attending and introduced the guest speaker, JoAnn Galbraith.

JoAnn announced that this year (2018), the Melbourne Legion Executive decided to update Legion records and compile photos and dialogues that Veterans and their family members have accumulated over the years. Tom Jeffrey, Wendy Robertson, Red Noble, Richard Hathaway and JoAnn Galbraith were chosen to carry out this important archival work.  For the evening.

JoAnn prepared a large display of Legion photographs and research material. She then explained the history of the first Legions which were established in 1925 after WWI.  These were special places where veterans could gather to reminisce and support one another.  

The first 10 Legion sites in Ontario threw their names into a hat and as each name was pulled, they were given a number.  London #2 was the closest Legion for veterans in the area to join.

Other early Legions in the area were Sir Arthur Currie #116 Strathroy – 1928; Reg Lovell Glencoe # 219 – 1930; West Elgin St Thomas 1930;  Caradoc Mount Brydges # 251 – 1933;  and Arrowhead Chippewa, Muncey, Oneida First Nations #477 – 1947.

Zone A was formed in 1947.   Other Legions receiving their charters in the area were Rodney #525 – 1951;  Lucan #540 – 1952;  Newbury #568 – 1960; Delaware #598 – 1962; and Ilderton #531 – 1964.

The first meeting to form a Legion in Melbourne was held November 18th,  1949 in the Melbourne Community Hall with 24 Veterans in attendance. Reg Lovell Glencoe #219 & Commanders Wilson, Williams, Cox, and Knight conducted an election of first officers.  Board Members of the Community Hall attempted to draft up an agreement with the new Legion, but because of Community Hall Bylaws, terms could not be met.

On 1 February 1950, Melbourne #510 received its Charter.  An opportunity arose to acquire a building in 1949 when Middlesex County School Boards began closing rural schools. John Kain of Melbourne purchased the SS#1 Caradoc School, east of the village, and with Veterans loaning the money, half of the purchase cost of the building enabled the Legion to have a permanent home. Numerous committees formed to raise funds to pay the balance owing.

In 1954, the Melbourne Fair Board offered a piece of their property, 85 ft deep and 75 ft wide, to be leased for 25 years at a cost of one dollar per year.  The school building was moved to the present location and since then there have been several additions.

In 1955, the Legion ladies auxiliary was formed.

In 1964, two lots at Longwood Cemetery were purchased and a memorial stone was erected.

In 1986, the stone was moved to its present location on property donated by Ina Campbell and Elsie Auld.  Remembrance Day services have been held there annually ever since.

To cover the history of the Legion in a short presentation, JoAnn borrowed the speech given by Al McGregor on the occasion of the Legion’s 50th Anniversary in 1999.  Mr. McGregor’s speech covered many highlights and achievements of the Legion in its first 50 years.  At the time, he was a journalist with CFPL TV, London and he wrote his speech after interviewing Katherine Eichenberger, Wib Houston and Leonard Vanderhooft.

JoAnn closed her presentation by reading the touching story of the 1982 origin of The Last Post and its text. To this day, this melody continues to be played at every Remembrance Memorial Service.

JoAnn was thanked by Ken Beecroft and a time of Fellowship followed the presentation followed by a short business meeting led by President Lorne Monroe.