The 2020 Poppy Appeal in Stafford
Press Release from the Branch President
As President of the Stafford Branch Royal British Legion and one of the many collectors in the Stafford Guild Hall and supermarkets during the restricted and shortened Poppy Appeal this year, the people of Stafford have once again amazed me with the warmth and generosity with which they have greeted the collectors and supported the charity. Year on year the support shown to our Armed Forces, Veterans and their dependents, is far above anything that we anticipate or hope for, and in this difficult year of dreadful loss and suffering due to the pandemic it is even more spectacular than ever.
The pandemic placed severe restrictions on how we could conduct the Poppy Appeal and it impacted upon our supporter availability and therefore this has been a very difficult year in which to distribute poppy boxes, collect donations and recall poppy tins. However, I am delighted to inform you that with over 100 collection boxes still to be collected from those establishments closed by the lock down, the town of Stafford has already raised over £35,000 for the Poppy Appeal this year. In doing so we have seen some incredible achievements such as Tesco breaking its own in store record by raising over £8,500 in just 10 of the normal 14 days, ASDA raising over £5,000 in just an incredible 4 days and the Guild Hall raising their average annual total of £6,500 in just 10 days. Having said that, none of these incredible team achievements would have been possible without the individual volunteer support of the Poppy Appeal Organiser, Mr. Joe Canning and his small team of dedicated and selfless volunteers. Many of these volunteers are veterans of the Armed Forces who are supporting a known community, but many are not. I would wish to congratulate them all on brilliant individual contributions, but those who have not served in the Armed Forces are the element that often surprise me the most, as their support and contribution is to a background of people with whom they have no immediate connection outside of the veterans they know or have met in the RBL. Whether they have served or not, for a period of time all of these people have put aside their doubts and fears over the pandemic and made a gigantic effort to support a valuable community.
This is not the year in which the Stafford Branch will break overall records for money raised as our ability to collect has been reduced by 50% due to pandemic restrictions. However, with the generosity of the people of Stafford and the support of our volunteers the Branch has already raised over 70% of last year’s total. The RBL have been blessed with an ability to collect during the pandemic and this amazing achievement has been incredibly rewarding for those individuals involved on the collection points. It only remains for me publicly thank and congratulate everyone for the manner in which we have overcome the pandemic and shown such magnificent support to our Armed Forces, Veterans and their dependants in 2020.
Lt Col (R) EC Dale OBE
Stafford Branch RBL
Picture (by Paul Milgate-Scarrott) – Stafford Guild Hall Collection Stand (Left to Right - Mr Ian Woodward, Ms Carole Chambers, Ms Linda Jenkinson, Mr Joe Canning (Poppy Appeal Organiser)
Anyone interested in helping in the next Poppy Appeal should contact our Poppy Appeal Organiser Joe Canning on 07815629711.
Information and updates about the 2021 Poppy Appeal will be placed on the RBL website Poppy Appeal pages
History of the Poppy
The following is a brief summary of the history of the poppy, more details can be read on the RBL website (What is Remembrance? - The Poppy)
Poppies are worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces community.
The poppy is a well-known and well-established symbol, one that carries a wealth of history and meaning with it. Wearing a poppy is still a very personal choice, reflecting individual experiences and personal memories. It is never compulsory but is greatly appreciated by those who it is intended to support.
During WW1, much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. The countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over repeatedly. Previously beautiful landscapes turned to mud; bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.
There was a notable and striking exception to the bleakness - the bright red Flanders poppies. These resilient flowers flourished in the middle of so much chaos and destruction, growing in the thousands upon thousands.
Shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was moved by the sight of these poppies and that inspiration led him to write the now famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'.
The poem then inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. Her campaign commenced in November 1918 and in 1920 it was adopted by the American Legion as a symbol of Remembrance across the United States. She also worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia, and the UK.
Also involved with those efforts was a French woman, Anna Guérin, in August 1921 she introduced her poppies, made by a French -American charity's widows to the UK, where she planned to sell the poppies in London. There she met Earl Haig, our founder, who was persuaded to adopt the poppy as our emblem in the UK. The British Legion, which had been formed in 1921, ordered nine million poppies and sold them on 11 November that year.
From that moment it was a seller's market: the poppies were on sale at an official price of three pence but before breakfast single petals were selling at Smithfield Market for £5. All day long motor cars fetched poppies and crate after crate was emptied until supplies ran out. A message from Queen Mary brought sellers to Buckingham Palace, but hearing that poppies were in short supply she bought only two. A basket of poppies auctioned at Christies's raised nearly £500.
The first appeal raised £106,000 (nearly £30 million in today's terms) and all the poppies were supplied from France. In 1922 the "Poppy Factory" was established in the UK to keep costs down and employing disabled ex-Servicemen to make the poppies. Three times as many poppies were ordered for the next appeal and it made £204,000 with lower overheads.
Note that poppies were "sold" when the appeal started but charity legislation now requires them to be 'distributed in return for donations'.