BY now, the chances are you may have bought a poppy during the Royal British Legion s (RBL) Annual Poppy Appeal. But have you ever stopped to think why you buy a poppy? Or where indeed the money goes? And for some, that the poppy makes possible an emotion
BY now, the chances are you may have bought a poppy during the Royal British Legion's (RBL) Annual Poppy Appeal. But have you ever stopped to think why you buy a poppy? Or where indeed the money goes? And for some, that the poppy makes possible an emotional journey of a lifetime?
While most people are familiar with the poppy, a much smaller percentage of the population really understands what it's all about. Once a year, during Remembrance Week, the poppy is a mark of respect for those men and women from the forces who gave their lives in the service of their country.
After so much time elapsing, it is not surprising that very few people know or understand the significance of the poppy for Remembrance Day. And yet, in 2007, more than 40 million poppies were made, 100,000 wreaths and 400.000 remembrance crosses are distributed by a force of over 300,000 voluntary helpers. As a result, more than £30million was raised through the Poppy Appeal for the Royal British Legion (the RBL receives no funding from the Government or the National Lottery). Therefore, it's hardly surprising that the poppy is one of the best-known charity emblems in the UK, and has become something of a national institution and, therefore, part of this country's heritage.
It is now more than 90 years since the end of the First World War and 64 years since the end of the Second World War. Many will remember the ultimate sacrifice of those who gave their lives in two World Wars. However, there have been over 70 conflicts since the Second World War - just think of the service people currently risking their lives as peacekeepers throughout the world and the current conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, there has been only one year since the end of WWII that a member of the British Forces has not been killed on active service.
Many people are also unsure where their money goes once they have made a donation to the Poppy Appeal. Well, there is certainly no mystique intended. The money is spent on their behalf in the following ways in order to help support the ex-service community and their dependants.
Welfare work: On receiving a request for assistance on behalf of an ex-service person or their dependants from either one of our local branch welfare committees, social services, or the many voluntary organisations, the RBL will endeavour to assist. This assistance could be the form of making payments for an outstanding utilities bill, rent or Council Tax arrears, food and clothing. We are also active in providing electric wheelchairs, stair lifts and white goods. The list is almost endless.
Benevolence Homes: There are currently two types of home, residential and convalescent. The Legion has seven residential homes located throughout the UK. We also have three Four Homes for short stay patients (maximum two weeks) who are perhaps recovering from an operation or bereavement and require a period of additional care to assist them in returning to better health. As well as this the RBL is also active in providing holidays of up to two weeks for individuals with special needs and, if necessary, an escort of their choice, again all paid for by the RBL.
Family holidays/adventure breaks for children: To enable families to have break at a variety of holiday places within the UK or children to have the chance to attend an adventure break centre.
Resettlement - "Civvy Street": Assistance with career courses and can be accessed through he Legion's web site.
Security company: Established in 1928 the security company, known as the "Attendant Company", specialises in all types of industrial security. It employs over 1,600 ex-service people and competes successfully with the nationally-known leaders in the field. The company is active in the blue-chip end of the market and its contracts include the House of Commons, Tower of London and many well-known national companies.
Small business advice and loans: The service can make cash payments, interest-free over five years, to enable individuals who are currently unemployed start their own business.
Pilgrimage department: One of great emotional significance to many individuals is the work of this department. For War Widows who lost their husbands between 1914 and 1967 there is a Government Grant-in-Aid scheme. This scheme, administered by the RBL, subsidises a widow on her first visit to her husband's grave. Currently the Government will make a contribution towards the of the cost of the trip.
Pensions department: Our pension department advises people who are entitled to a War Pension to make a claim. The term War Pension is a misnomer - any ex-service person who has a disability they believe was caused as a result of military service can make a claim on the Government.
Poppy Factory: Located in Richmond, London, the factory is unique in holding the Royal Warrant. It produces poppies and collecting trays, and production continues throughout the year, as does the making of wreaths. The facility provides work for disabled people and also has a limited number of self contained flats within its grounds for employees. Over the years the factory has provided work for over 2,000 disabled people. A visit is highly recommended to both the factory and its small museum.
Major PHIL COLLIS
County manager, Beds, Herts, Cambs & Hunts.
Royal British Legion