AFTER 20 years, Didcot Royal British Legion’s hard-working standard bearer is passing the mantle to another former soldier for the town’s Remembrance Services tomorrow. Jane Leigh, 88, has been the official standard bearer for Didcot RBL since 1992, representing the branch in Remembrance duties and at funeral services for former members.
The widowed great-grandmother of 12 said: “I was a standard bearer for the women’s branch of the Royal British Legion to start with and when the men’s and women’s sections merged I just took on the role and I have loved doing it.
“Of course I was nervous when I started. It’s a true responsibility and I was scared at first that I would drop the standard.”
Mrs Leigh, who lives in Green Road, Didcot, is originally from Romford in Essex. At 18 she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a cook and was posted to Didcot, where she served for four years as an Acting Corporal in the Officers and Sergeant’s Mess.
She is now passing the task on to fellow RBL member Peter Ryding.
Mrs Leigh said: “I have enjoyed carrying the standard very much and I have been proud to represent the Didcot District British Legion Branch. And although it is sad to finish, I know Peter will do an excellent job.
Mr Ryding served in the Army, and has a very personal reason for marking Remembrance Day. He was only four years old when his father was killed in the Second World War.
Mr Ryding said: “My father, Sgt Phillip Ryding, was killed in France in May, 1940. He was in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) and was on his way to Dunkirk when they were bombed by German forces. My father died aged just 28 and is buried in a cemetery in Tingry.”
He continued: “I was living with my mother in Didcot but at 15 I was sent to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School – for boys whose fathers were killed in the war.
“At 18 I entered full service with the RAOC 14 Batallion and spent time stationed in Didcot and then Cyprus, during the troubles of the 1950s.”
After being discharged from the services in 1959, Mr Ryding, of Haydon Road, Didcot, spent 35 years working in the goods inwards department at Keble College, Oxford.
Now retired, and aged 76 he said of his new role as standard bearer: “Jane has done a fantastic job over the last 20 years and I thank her for her support in getting me ready for my first Remembrance official duties tomorrow..
“I have done a lot of marching in my life, but not for a long time and I hope I can do a good job.
“I will carry the Standard with pride and in memory of my father, and also for all the young soldiers currently fighting overseas, and it will be an honour to do so.”