This year’s Poppy Appeal launch saw the next generation take the reigns, with four Army Cadets presenting poppies to the Head students from Gillotts School. The launch took place on Saturday 30th at 11am in Market Place, and served as a reminder of the Royal British Legion’s vital work in supporting our Armed Forces — both past and present.
Cpl Grace Iveson, Mayor’s Cadet for the Henley Army Cadets, opened the occasion with a speech in which she emphasised the importance of the Royal British Legion’s work. She said, “The Royal British Legion has two main public faces: the Poppy Appeal and the Remembrance Services. Here in Henley, on Remembrance Sunday on November 14th, we will commemorate the British and Commonwealth service men and woman who took part in past conflicts. Today, though, it is all about the Poppy Appeal. It is not about pomp and ceremony; it is about marking our Poppy Collectors setting out into the community with a simple message – there are many past and present service people who need our help in numerous ways, from ongoing medical or other treatments to help in adjusting to civilian life, sometimes they just need a good listener.”
Cpl Iveson also highlighted the relevance of the Poppy Appeal in current times, stating: “All too often we tend to associate the Poppy Appeal with the two World Wars. Just History. To mark the beginning of its new Century, the Royal British Legion is stressing that although their values have not changed, the Poppy Appeal is now largely about more recent conflicts, about current serving members of the armed forces and their families, and about their future wellbeing. Things like post-traumatic stress disorder, learning to live with severe disabilities and obtaining the right pension advice are, sadly, ongoing concerns.”
The Henley Army Cadets — Cpl Iveson, LCpl Amelia Jacob, Cpl Jasmine Barrow and Sjt Charlie James — then presented the Head students of Gillotts School — Roman Meredith, Benjamin Price and Abi Botterill — with their Remembrance Poppies, symbolising the ongoing support for the Royal British Legion from next generation.
John Green, President of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, and Anne Evans, the branch’s Chair, were both present on the day to represent the Legion. As is tradition, Henley Mayor Sarah Miller bought her poppy at the launch on Saturday morning, and was presented with it by John Green. She said, “I was very pleased to be involved in today’s launch of the Henley Poppy Appeal, along with my Mayors Cadet Lance Corporal Grace Iveson, a member of the Henley Army Cadets. The RBL is one of my chosen charities for my year as Mayor and I do hope to raise funds for this important charity. I’ve been a member of the RBL for some years. My Grandfather fought and was a Desert Rat. He never spoke of his time in the war, it was difficult for him, but he cherished his friends he made at the Legion and the support given. The Legion was very important to him.”
Sarah Miller continued, “Even if I wasn’t Mayor, I would have been here today, supporting the Royal British Legion. They offer a lifeline to veterans who fought for us and support for current members of the Forces. All in all it was a lovely lovely morning, the rain had stopped, the sun shone, and I purchased my first Poppy from my dear friend John Green, President of the Henley & Peppard British Legion and Anne Evans, Chair of the Henley & Peppard British Legion. I did miss Sam Brown and her Ukelele Band — I always enjoy watching John Green do a little jig. Perhaps next year.”
Sara Abey, Poppy Appeal Organiser for Henley and Peppard, said, ”It was wonderful to have our Henley Army Cadets and Gillotts School Head students leading the Poppy Appeal launch this year. This recognition of the charitable aims of the Royal British Legion by our younger generation and their positivity is moving. I thank them immensely and also Catharine Darnton and Matt Druce, the Headteacher and Assistant Headteacher of Gillots and the 2Lt Mel Haynes, the Henley Army Cadets Commander, for their enthusiastic support.
“The launch was a celebration of the volunteer Poppy Appeal collectors being back in our community and was a true community effort. HTC allowed us to use Market Place, the Square and Gabriel Machin helped furnish it and Patrick Fleming of Henley Falaise Leichlingen Twinning Association and Laurence Wilson of Magoos went beyond the call of duty when they set up the marquee in torrential rain. And, of course, I thank our longstanding, Poppy Appeal volunteers. Their dedication to supporting the Royal British Legion in safeguarding the welfare of the Armed Forces Community in need is humbling – and a proud Henley-on-Thames tradition.”
The Henley Poppy Appeal’s fundraising efforts have been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with collection becoming much more difficult over the past 18 months. If you would like to volunteer, please email Sara Abbey (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit https://www.rbl-henley.org/poppy-appeal-fundraising