Poppy Appeal launches with plea for more help

Please help us collect: Poppy Appeal supporters Graham Hewitt, Doreen Hewitt, Kathleen Barsley, Peter Lyon and Cheryl Arnold at The Royal British Legion headquarters in Spring Gardens, Spalding. Photo: SG251011-134NG
Please help us collect: Poppy Appeal supporters Graham Hewitt, Doreen Hewitt, Kathleen Barsley, Peter Lyon and Cheryl Arnold at The Royal British Legion headquarters in Spring Gardens, Spalding. Photo: SG251011-134NG
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VOLUNTEERS are still needed as Spalding branch of The Royal British Legion launches an ambitious Poppy Appeal campaign.

Poppy Appeal Organiser Peter Lyon, an ex-Navy veteran who served on Ark Royal, says it is “touch and go” whether the Spalding branch can put enough hands on deck during remembrance tide, which runs from this Saturday to Sunday, November 13.

The Legion supports veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as their families – and its work embraces all military service going back to the Second World War.

The much publicised provision of a rehabilitation centre for injured servicemen at Headley Court by the charity Help for Heroes is just one of the projects supported by the Legion.

Its work also includes giving advice on things like careers for those leaving the forces, pensions, helping out with crisis loans and providing short and long-term care for ex-service people.

Mr Lyon said: “The Royal British Legion takes on the nation’s duty of care not just for today’s generation but going back to the oldest veterans – even if they were not deployed in conflicts, they still gave service to their country.”

The 62-year-old was invalided out of the Navy following a 30-year career that saw him rise to the rank of Warrant Officer and serving on some of the nation’s most famous ships, Ark Royal, Hermes, Illustrious and Invincible.

He was injured on one of the aircraft carriers and gradually he was overcome by back pain and had to leave two years short of his pensionable age.

He then worked for the Ministry of Defence.

After all his service to his country, it was the Legion and not the military or the ministry who stood at his side at a pension tribunal to help him win his due.

Peter said: “I had an aircraft fall on me when we were at sea.

“I was jacking it up and the jack collapsed.

“The aircraft didn’t completely collapse on me but it was enough to crush me into the deck a little bit.

“It is only as you get older that you get disc problems, herneated discs and prolapsed discs. I have had four operations on my spine.

“The Legion is very good at representing people at tribunals.”

Peter walks with a stick but he still has enough energy to mastermind the Poppy Appeal because he knows what servicemen and women give to their country – and he knows how the Legion help in troubled times.

Peter served on the “old” Ark Royal – the one featured in a 1970s hit TV series with the Rod Stewart classic “Sailing” playing in the title sequence – and says every day was hard because conditions were so cramped for the men.

He said: “That Ark Royal was offered to the prison service as a prison ship and it was turned down because the conditions weren’t good enough for the prisoners.”

Peter says the older generation – including veterans from the Second World War – are finding it tougher now to man the collecting stations for the Poppy Appeal.

He said: “We would welcome help from anyone who can spare anything from an hour or a whole day to collect to help the Legion’s vital work.”