The Royal British Legion (RBL) has launched its annual Poppy Appeal in central London with an installation telling the stories of members of the armed forces community.
A huge red wall covered in paper flower tributes was unveiled at Hay’s Galleria on Thursday, with six of its stories featured, including 98-year-old D-Day veteran Bernard Morgan.
Members of the public were invited to collect a poppy from the installation to discover the story of someone who has been helped by the charity.
A common sight on the Western Front, the red poppy became a symbol of remembrance for those who died in the First World War and is now also worn as a tribute to those still serving.
Veteran Clive Jones, 47, who has been blind for 21 years, said the RBL had helped him with the challenge of adapting to civilian life after the conflict.
“It’s a wonderful thing that’s happening and I’m very proud to be here,” he said.
“When people wear their poppy it is a mark of respect and pride. I think it is very important that you wear the poppy and donate where you can so that the Royal British Legion can help support soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families and veterans in their rehabilitation.
“Adjusting to the civilian lifestyle really wasn’t easy and the Royal British Legion has been there for me and my family from the start.
“I have now been blind for 21 years and life is getting easier, but I know that if the Royal British Legion can help me, they are there for me.”
Imogen, 11, said the RBL had introduced her to other children whose parents were in the military through a charity-funded choir, helping them “get through it together”.
She said: “We can all relate and it’s easier for us to understand each other because when we say, ‘my dad’s going to be gone for six months,’ someone else would say, ‘It’s going to be okay because we can spend it together because my dad has to go too so we can both be here for each other.”
Her mother Rachel, 40, said: “It makes me sad to think that Imogen is going through this. It’s difficult but to be honest it’s something that has just become part of our lives.
“Sometimes we can call, often we have to wait for him to call us, so whenever he does we drop everything we’re doing,” he said.
“Kids are incredibly resilient and I think they sacrificed a lot to have parents in the armed forces, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Andy Taylor-White, head of fundraising for the RBL, said supporting the charity was a way of showing respect for “veterans before who have given the ultimate sacrifice” as well as service members.
“In particular, this year we are asking people to wear the poppy to show that they care about the armed forces community, both the veterans who have gone before and also the armed forces community today who need our help “, he said.
“This is very relevant right now. We are supporting people with cost of living grants, but also veterans who need welfare and support.
“As a veteran of the Royal Navy, respecting the fact that we have generations of veterans before us who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but we also have people serving today who are willing to defend our way of life.”