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Wear your poppies with pride
9:00am Monday 29th October 2012 in News
GENERATIONS may separate them, but they have a common cause – to sell as many poppies as possible for the Royal British Legion.
When Betty Sowerby takes her place outside Witney’s Waitrose store this month, she will mark her 63rd year of selling poppies.
And nearby in the town will be 16-year-old Kieran Butler, who will be selling poppies for the first time.
Mrs Sowerby, 87, took on the mantle of selling poppies from her mum Ada, who continued until her 98th year.
She said: “I remember going door to door with her as a child.
“My mother chose to sell the flowers after her brother in law went off to war in the trenches and died along with thousands of others at Ypres during the First World War. Three of my cousins also fought in the Second World War.”
Mrs Sowerby started selling poppies in her own right as a teenager.
And, in 2008, she received a framed certificate of thanks and 60-year-bar to attach to her Royal British Legion medal from the then national chairman John Hawthornthwaite.
Always wearing her trademark red hat, last year Mrs Sowerby made her biggest total yet of £340.
She said: “I have a bad leg now and have to sit on a stool, but I know a lot of people in the town and they are very generous.
“I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but I’ll keep going as long as I can manage.
“It is wonderful to see youngsters like Kieran getting involved. We need some youngsters – if we are to continue collecting, we need a new generation to get involved.”
Kieran, a student at Witney College, was prompted to get involved in the Poppy Appeal after volunteering at the Oxfordshire branch of Help for Heroes.
He explained: “I think all of us have been affected by the sheer number of people being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – it’s shocking because many of them are not much older than me.
“I wanted to do something to help and saw they were looking for poppy collectors.
“I suppose it’s not what a lot of 16-year-olds would do, and some people might look at me weirdly, but the Royal British Legion needs younger people because a lot of the collectors are getting too old to manage it and without them there would not be a Poppy Appeal.
“I feel strongly about doing my bit and I hope other young people will offer to help too. It’s only a few hours and you can make a lot of difference.”
Poppy sellers will be in all Oxfordshire’s towns and villages during early November. Or to make a donation to the RBL by phone, call 0845 845 1945
Details of other ways to donate and of how to become a fundraiser for the RBL can be found at britishlegion.org.uk
REMEMBERING FALLEN HEROES
THE members of 11 EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Regiment, based at Didcot’s Vauxhall Barracks, are no strangers to the losses of war – six of their small number have lost their lives in Afghanistan in the past three years.
Captain Jayne Reynolds, the Regiment’s Adjutant, said: “Although we mark the passing of our fallen soldiers and officers annually on the anniversary of their deaths by holding a memorial service at our memorial wall, we feel it is also important to remember them during the national remembrance period alongside those of our comrades who have fallen in past wars.
“And we all wear our poppies with pride.”
She added: “The work the RBL carries out on behalf of those retired and serving members of the Armed Forces and their families is very important to our soldiers here at Didcot. Recently the RBL in Didcot has sent much-welcomed gift parcels to our members in Afghanistan.
“But without the support of the public, the RBL would not be able to provide the amount of support it currently does, and the fact the public continue to donate money and to buy poppies from the legion is a sign community spirit and generosity still truly exists.”
11 EOD is part of a bomb disposal task force risking their lives on a daily basis to disable the estimated 1,000 new IEDs (improvised explosive devices) planted every month in Afghanistan.
Their work also involves disarming and destroying bombs in the UK, including Northern Ireland.
Capt Reynolds said: “We carry on because it is our job.
“Obviously there are bad moments, but we also understand that if we didn’t carry on then no-one else would be able to do it and that we do ultimately save lives.
“Knowing we have the full support of friends, family and our local communities does give us the strength to carry on.”
£90M PACKAGE FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE
THE RBL spent £90 million last year on health and welfare for the Armed Forces community – £1.7m every week.
It committed £50 million over 10 years to help serving men and women who are wounded, injured or sick through the Battle Back Centre, an adaptive sports facility in Shropshire and to fund the operating costs of four Personnel Recovery Centres in the UK and a Personnel Recovery Unit in Germany.
It spent £20 million in 2011 running its care homes and break centres.
Last year it helped 18,000 veterans and their families with immediate needs grants and helped more than 11,000 individuals with benefit and money advice, 25 per cent of whom were serving personnel.
Last year its Independent Inquest Advice Service supported 110 bereaved relatives through the coroner’s inquest.
Some 8,000 people received a break, including ‘bucket and spade’ holidays and adventure trips for service children.
The RBL’s Benefits and Money Advice made its average customer £3,000 better off.
Its pioneering Be the Boss scheme has provided nearly 3,000 service leavers with the tools to expand or set up their own business.
The Legion has recently funded a 50-seat, state-of-the-art cinema and entertainment centre for injured service personnel at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court to help them recuperate.
New initiatives for 2012 and onwards include The Royal British Legion Admiral Nurse Service, in partnership with Dementia UK to improve the quality of life for people with dementia by supporting those who care for them.
It is investing £5 million into ‘blast-injury’ research at Imperial College London to combat the devastating effects of roadside bombs and IEDs.
OTHER charities offering help:
Help for Heroes
The British Limbless ex-Servicemen’s Association (BLESMA) supports servicemen and women who lose limbs, the use of limbs or eyes or the sight of an eye in the service of their country.
The charity’s work starts with rehabilitation and involves shared experience, life-long welfare support, and campaigning.
Jerome Church, General Secretary of BLESMA, said: “We have had a long and fruitful relationship with the Royal British Legion for over 80 years.
“The Legion has always worked closely with us and we with them.
“They have resources we don’t, but we have expertise in areas such as prosthetics and the daily business of living with amputation. We are a good team.
“The Poppy Appeal is at the centre of public life of this country and, as ever, we will be guests of the Royal British Legion as we march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday wearing the poppy that is a symbol of real meaning – for us all.”
Call 020 8590 1124 or visit blesma.org
The Army Benevolent Fund provides financial support and practical advice to soldiers, former soldiers and their families in times of need.
Call 0845 241 4820 or visit soldierscharity.org
The charity Combat Stress provides a dedicated service for veterans including a 24-hour helpline, a community outreach service and a variety of rehabilitation programmes.
Call 01372 587 000 or visit combatstress.org
The Army Families Federation (AFF) is the independent voice of Army families and works hard to improve the quality of life for Army families around the world. The charity is often pivotal in achieving improvements for Army families such as changes to Government and military policy. For details of your regional co-ordinator, visit aff.org.uk
The Not Forgotten Association is a unique national tri-service charity which provides entertainment, leisure and recreation for the serving wounded, injured or sick and for ex-service men and women with disabilities. Call 0207 730 0020 or visit nfassociation.org