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Lest we forget

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On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War ended. Some of the bloodiest fighting of that war took place in the Flanders and Picardy regions of Belgium and Northern France. The poppy was the only thing which grew in the aftermath of complete devastation, so it's only right that it is now a symbol of regeneration, hope and sacrifice.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end 2008’s blog than to share John McCrae’s ‘In Flander’s Fields.’

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

Until next year everyone!

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

All good things....


I’m feeling a bit sad at the moment – after tomorrow’s Remembrance Day I’ll be returning to the Royal British Legion headquarters in London where I’ll stay until Poppy Appeal events next year. This means I’m putting away my blogging pen for a bit!

I’ve had an amazing time touring around the UK meeting lots of people and hearing their special stories, and I’ve felt so overwhelmed with support. I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has fundraised this year and to everyone who has donated – the Royal British Legion really couldn’t do what it does without you. I’ll just have time to squeeze in one last appearance – you’ll be able to catch me on Blue Peter tomorrow. I’ll be sharing some facts about the Poppy Appeal (including how I keep my own poppies in tip-top condition!) and letting everyone know why Remembrance is so important. Tune in!

As for you music lovers – the X Factor single Hero (sales help support both Help the Heroes and the Royal British Legion) is still at the number one spot, for the second week! To date it’s sold 502,844 copies and is amazingly the fastest selling charity single of the decade and the fastest selling single of 2008!

Well, tomorrow is the big day and the ceremony at the Cenotaph will be led by none other than Britain’s last surviving veterans of the First World War. That’s Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108. They’re going to be accompanied by the Duchess of Gloucester, Gordon Brown and about 4,000 others. After the service they’ll be off for some tea and biscuits at No 10 Downing Street with the prime minister. Bill tells me why he’s going along: “If it wasn’t for events like the laying of the wreath, then you’d forget it all. It’s especially important for the younger people who weren’t alive to see the wars.”

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

On behalf of the whole nation....

Afternoon everyone,

Two minutes of silence. It seemed like such a small amount of time to give for those who have died for us. Hardly anything at all, though even those 120 seconds were something very special. Of course I'm talking about the Remembrance Day parade to the Cenotaph yesterday. Did anyone manage to attend or perhaps catch it on television?

I was amazed by the sheer number of onlookers who came along to Whitehall - the crowds were 10 deep, and the parade took 50 minutes to march past the Cenotaph! So nice to see so many children, too.

The music by the band was incredibly rousing and kept the crowds (loads of them had arrived extra early to ensure a good view!) entertained until the time came for the Queen to be joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Prince William to lay commerotative wreaths at the foot of the monument. The Royal Family stood in silence at the eleventh hour alongside 8,000 veterans from 200 regiments. I think they were remembering that everyone is touched by war in some way, and in the 90 years since the end of the First World War the list of those who have since died is long. Far too long in my book! And it was supposed to be the war to end all wars...
The service therefore honoured those who served in the First and Second World Wars as well as those who have died more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After the thoughtful quiet everyone cheered as the marchers went on to lay their own wreaths - these included the Chelsea Pensioners, nurses and firefighters, Bevin Boys in miners' hats and a squadron of Royal British Legion members in motorised wheelchairs.

And proving the point that it's never too late to attend, this was Arthur Hillman's first Remembrance Day parade. Arthur is a Second World War veteran and at 98 he'd never before gone along to a Poppy Day service - because incredibly he had never considered himself to be very much a hero. It was only after the death of his wife that he decided to join the Royal British Legion and allow himself to celebrate his achievements. He said just before the event: "I never did anything heroic like rescuing soldiers or anything like that. I'm determined and a very independent person but I'm also quite modest and that's partly the reason why I didn't wear the medals. I am looking forward to the parade but I expect it to be emotional."

Services also took place in Iraq and at Kandahar, the UK's largest military base in Afghanistan.

Let me know if you were there...

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

Let's Remember

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Hi again,

I thought I'd take a minute to remind you all that you mustn't forget that it's the Festival of Remembrance on Saturday at the Royal Albert Hall. This special event honours all of our fantastic men and women in the Armed Forces - both past and present - and will feature some great music from my new friend Hayley Westenra and artists Jonathan Ansell, Katherine Jenkins and of course not forgetting the excellent Service Bands! And as 2008 is also the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Territorial Army, an enhanced role for TA veterans in the programme is planned, making the occasion extra special!

As part of its Remembrance90 program, the BBC is going to be showing all the highlights on BBC1 television and the whole lot will be broadcast on Radio 2. Tune in!

Following on from Saturday is Remembrance Sunday. This is the day we traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives in the name of peace. It's a day that means a lot to me as it's a chance for everyone to reflect on the sacrifices made by our Service men and women - sacrifices most of us will find difficult even to imagine. The day is probably best known for its service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. This is where the Queen lays a commemorative wreath alongside Members of the Cabinet, Opposition Party leaders, former Prime Ministers and the Mayor of London. What I love about the event is that although it was originally conceived as a commemoration of the war dead from the First World War, it was later extended to include Second World War heroes and then again in 1980 to include everyone who has suffered and died - and continues to suffer and die - in conflict. It's painful to remember that it's all still going on, but that's why it's more important than ever to honour the Armed Services and the work they continue to do.

Have wonderful weekends everyone!

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

7th Nov 2008, 14:30   | tags:,comments (1)

this is joe

(viewed 3290 times)
He served in korea

Posted by champix_dreams

7th Nov 2008, 10:07   comments (0)

another sort of poppy man

(viewed 3323 times)
With a poppy strewn hat at liverpool street station

Posted by champix_dreams

7th Nov 2008, 09:56   comments (1)

Denis remembers

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I heard a lovely story this morning. Denis Grubb, who's a member of the Stockton British Legion, is urging Teessiders to support this year's Poppy Appeal because he wants people to know that it's as much about helping out servicemen and women today as it is about honouring those who fell in past conflicts. Ex-RAF Denis told me: "All this money goes to helping the welfare of servicemen and their families past and present, from those who served in World War Two to the lads and lasses being killed and injured today in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Denis lost his 20 year old uncle Ernie to the trenches of World War One, and he's spent much time putting together a collection of his old letters and postcards, as well as regularly visiting his grave in Pozieres in France. Denis has even managed to get hold of a letter sent to his uncle's parents, informing them of his death.

The missive from his uncle's commander reads: “He had taken a very gallant part in a counter attack my company made to halt the enemy at a very extreme stage in the engagement. He was hit through the heart by a sniper and death was instantaneous. I can only state his death was a personal loss, not only to myself but to the whole of my company, as his good sprits did much to uphold the troops.” Denis has now proudly donated his letters to the Eden War Museum near Malton, so Ernie "is never forgotten." Last year the Stockton British Legion raised a whopping - and record - £30,000 through its collection.

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

From the Abbey to the Market...

(viewed 3176 times)
Hi again,

Wow, what an excellent service - let me know if you attended! It was quite something to watch the Duke of Edinburgh lay his cross in tribute to fallen servicemen, and plenty of people turned out to take part in the two-minute silence. But don't worry if you missed it, there's still plenty to see and do in the run-up to Remembrance Day! Just stay tuned to this blog...

After taking advantage of some free tea I wandered on over to Leadenhall Market. Some of my friends and supporters of the Royal British Legion were out in force!

Poppy Man

Posted by PoppyMan

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