Longest serving standard bearer calls it a day

editorial image

A standard-bearer for Hayfield Royal British Legion who is understood to be the country’s longest-serving has stepped down - after 55 years.

Neil Deaville, 84, was recruited for the prestigious role in 1963 while “walking down” to the RBL branch.

The role’s previous occupier had stepped down but a standard-bearer was needed for Glossop’s Drumhead Service so the 28-year-old - who was a “teddy boy” at the time - found himself bearing the standard in his winkle-pickers.

Neil, who has carried the flag every year bar one and attended all the village Remembrance Sunday parades and services, has even had a beer named after him called Standard Bearer - which he describes as “a nice bitter”.

Neil’s last shift as standard bearer for the branch was on Remembrance Sunday.

Neil said he had stayed on so long in the role because “it’s just something to represent the village of Hayfield”.

He said: “It’s important to remember the people we represent - especially at funerals.

“Last month I really enjoyed going to France and Belgium to lay a wreath for the RBL in Hayfield.

“There were a thousand standards and a thousand wreath-layers - it was marvellous to see them all and lay a wreath.”

“But I’m 83 now and I thought it was time to call it a day.

“It’s getting hard to walk now going up the hills with the standard - especially in Hayfield.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-seven - who worked as a painter and decorator - will not however be quitting the legion permanently and will stay on as president at its Hayfield branch.