The Rye Branch of the Royal British Legion was formally constituted as a Royal British Legion Branch in January 1925.
The Committee of local ex-servicemen formed to open a club and rented two rooms and a large cellar. The entrance was by an outside stone stairway.
The British Legion Club was opened in March 1928 in its present premises, previously part of the Eagle Brewery, King Street, Rye (formerly J Bowen’s Landgate brewery). Alfred Leney & Co of Dover, Kent, acquired the Eagle Brewery at Rye around 1896 and was subsequently acquired by Fremlins Ltd before closing in the 1920s. In 1928 it was then owned by ‘Dapper’ Martin, and was used for storing and repairing fishing nets.
Among the stalwarts who worked so hard with the building restoration were E H Swaine Sr and Jr, H Hobbs, H Deeprose and A Kempton.
The downstairs room became the bar with the billiards room upstairs. The table, presented by Colonel Rigden to the club is still used. In the early 1930’s, another room was rented, which became the upper lounge.
Membership grew as men came out of the Services at the end of the Second World War.
The heirs of Dapper Martin decided to sell the premises in the early 1950s. The Committee determined to ask for loans from the members to buy it and succeeded. The largest loan was £25. Fundraising started with the introduction of a gaming machine and all loans were repaid within two years.
As membership grew, there was a demand for more snooker facilities and in the early 1970s a garage underneath the premises was converted for this use.
Following the Club’s dis-affiliation by the Royal British Legion, the Branch moved from the premises in King Street in 2006. The Branch met for a short while in the Union Inn in East Street; then from 2008 the Benson Room of the George Hotel, High Street, Rye where it still meets today.
Rye RBL Pilgramages
Since 2006 Rye RBL President, Col Kimber, has taken a party of members and locals to a number of sites in France to trace the actions of local members of the services and remember where they fell with a short service.
2006 – Ypres (Toc H, Menning Gate)
2007 – Somme (Abert, Lochnager Crater, Delville Wood, Theipval, Newfoundland Park)
2008 – Artois (Aubers Ridge, Neuve Chappelle, Boars Head, Fromelles & Vimmy)
2009 – House of Parliament & Imperial War Museum
2011 – Arras (Wellington Tunnels, Loos, & Fromelles)
2012 – Dunkirk