By Sarah Ferencz, Archivist – Whitby Archives
When the First World War ended in 1918, returned service men and women and soldiers’ widows and orphaned children served as an impetus for the formation of veteran support groups all across Canada. The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League, now known as the Royal Canadian Legion, was established through the unification of a number of these veterans’ groups and regimental associations in 1925. The goal of the Legion was, and continues to be, to provide support and advocacy for veterans, ex-service men and women, and their families. Legions provided support networks and camaraderie so it’s no wonder that the veterans in Brooklin sought to establish a local branch in 1929.
Working under the auspices of the Oshawa Legion Branch, resident Dr. James Moore, a veteran of the Battle of Hill 70 in France, and several other local veterans worked to establish the Brooklin Legion Branch No. 152. The newly formed Legion received the charter from the Legion provincial executive at a gala celebration on November 4, 1929 at the Whitby Township Hall, now the Brooklin Community Centre. Secretary-treasurer Robert E. Wilson announced the newly formed Legion’s program for the anniversary of Armistice, including a memorial service to be held at Brooklin United Church on November 10 and the Armistice Night smoker party at Whitby Legion Branch 112 on November 11. The memorial service was preceded by a parade involving members of the Brooklin Legion, the Ontario Regiment Band, Boy Scouts, and members of the Legions in Oshawa, Whitby, and Port Perry. The Oshawa Daily Times reported that the church was “packed to overflowing”.
After such a momentous and successful first month, it would seem the Brooklin Legion did not fare as well as its Whitby and Oshawa counterparts. The last entry in the Legion’s minute book dates to January 1931and it appears the branch disbanded shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until 1966 when the Legion was revived by Fred Phillips, a Brooklin barber. Mr. Phillips purchased the Brooklin House Hotel at the corner of Baldwin and Campbell Streets and began renovating the then 84-year-old building for use as a Legion hall. The Brooklin Legion hall was officially opened on June 6, 1970, the 26th anniversary of D-Day. It seemed the growing number of veterans from the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War required the support, advocacy, familiarity, and camaraderie that only the Royal Canadian Legion could provide and served as the foundation for the re-establishment of the Brooklin Legion Branch No. 152. Today, the Brooklin Legion has approximately 350 members and is a prominent and enduring landmark in the local community.