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Kingsclere Royal British Legion chairman bids farewell after four successful years

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The outgoing chairman of the Kingsclere Royal British Legion has paid tribute to the branch’s members and said the new team will make it “better and stronger” than ever.

Sunday’s Remembrance Day parade was Mark Holden’s last event as chairman as he prepares to move to Dorset to be closer to his wife’s family.

He has been replaced by Kingsclere resident and branch member Kate Oldershaw, while husband and wife duo Jim and Mary Sanger have taken over as the branch’s secretary and treasurer respectively.

Mark Holden with his father, Bill Holden (53191656)
Mark Holden with his father, Bill Holden (53191656)

Mr Holden took over as chairman around four years ago and has since seen the branch grow within the community, helping to arrange events such as poppy appeals, the Easter feat and D-Day drive pasts.

Perhaps the highlight of his time was being awarded the Hampshire certificate in January this year for the top branch in the county.

The certificate, which is only awarded to one branch per year across the whole of Hampshire, was awarded to branch due to its range of initiatives throughout 2020 – such as Operation Blanket, when members of the legion and others crocheted more than 60 square blankets for senior citizens in the village.

Mark Holden as branch chairman. (53191650)
Mark Holden as branch chairman. (53191650)

The branch also donated £1,500 to the Hampshire Veteran’s Association Welfare Fund from its own branch funds.

Reflecting on his time as chairman, Mr Holden said: “The branch has grown over the last four years and that’s due to the efforts of all the branch members.

“The support I’ve had has been outstanding and we’ve delivered a number of events, and I think the branch has grown and is now a fully embedded part of the community, as it should be.

“The Hampshire certificate shows the dedication of the whole team.

Mark Holden in Afghanistan in 2012. (53191652)
Mark Holden in Afghanistan in 2012. (53191652)

“We’re fighting against branches like Andover, Aldershot, and Basingstoke, so to be awarded that accolade by the county chairman is a massive achievement for the branch and it shows how much we’ve done in the last four to five years and how much more we can do.”

Mr Holden, 52, is a military veteran himself having joined the forces at the age of 16, following in the footsteps of his father and older brothers.

He did two years as an apprentice solder in Harrogate, before serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Africa and the Middle East.

Mark Holden as a young soldier in 1991. (53191654)
Mark Holden as a young soldier in 1991. (53191654)

He served for 30 years, working his way up to the position of Major, before leaving the military in 2016.

Mr Holden said the legion gave him “an outlet to remember my colleagues,” a number of whom he lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He continued: “The legion is a great community piece of work.

“We can help not only the veterans but the veterans’ families, their dependents, and the people who need support locally.

“It’s a community thing for me rather than a national British legion.”

Parish council chairman John Sawyer paid tribute to Mr Holden for his work in the community.

Speaking in a council meeting, he said: “I want to say a big thank you to Mark Holden for his service to the village and the Royal British Legion.

“He was certainly a very dynamic resident who did a lot to bring people together.

“We’ll miss him very, very much.”

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