D-Day and Burma Star veterans attend Lincolnshire

D-Day and Burma Star veterans saw a new, sustainable future for the Royal British Legion unfold when a plastic-free poppy was unveiled at the launch of the Lincolnshire RBL's annual appeal.

The ceremony – held in the ‘Just Jane’ Lancaster hanger at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre by kind permission of the Panton family – is always an important date in the calendar for the county’s veterans and volunteers.

However, this year was extra special – and not just because of the new poppy.

Paul Dixon, Lincolnshire Poppy Appeal co-ordinator, explained: “There are a lot of fresh people here from headquarters to see how Lincolnshire do it – we do it with great pride and very professionally.”

John Johnson, chairman of the Lincolnshire Royal British Legion, said the new all paper ‘eco-friendly’ poppy was the latest way the RBL was moving with the times to become more sustainable.

He said: “The poppy appeal launch brings together Legion members and volunteers.

"The Royal British Legion is proud if its tradition of comradeship and support for every member of the armed forces community.

"The Legion is not going anywhere – we are going to be here for years to come and, together, we will continue to support those who need us.”

Special guests included National Parade Marshal John Thornhill, who said he was honoured to be invited to launch the appeal.

"Lincolnshire is thriving,” he said. “I can say that with confidence and that is due to the hard work of the volunteers.”

Few will wear their poppy with more pride that the three Second World War veterans who were sat amongst other veterans, volunteers and guests.

Burma Star Veteran Alfred Conway, 98, of Anderby Creek and D-Day veterans Les Budding, 98, of Aslackby, and George Harwood, 99, of Anton’s Gowt, were given a special mention by Mr Johnson.

For the veterans, the occasion brought memories of their comrades flooding back.

Les recalled: “I was over in Normandy on D-Day with the first wave going in and my friend here (George) was on LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks) on the American beaches.

"After D-Day, I served with the defensive Trout Line of ships for 100 nights to prevent the Germans from coming in.”

Promoting the new poppy was Poppy Appeal manager Gemma Leaning. “Our new plastic-free more eco-friendly poppy is 100 per cent paper and 100 per cent recyclable – in fact 50 per cent of the paper os from recycled coffee cups,” she said.

"We are doing a blended approach this year so you can still get plastic ones but the new ones are out there.”

One volunteer- Grace Nighthill, who received special recognition for 50 years service selling poppies had strong opinions about the new one.

"My grandad who I didn’t know as he died in the Second World War was the first person to get a medal for his work for the Royal British Legion,” she said.

"So at 16 I started selling poppies and I haven’t stopped since – I’ve been all over the country.

" I don’t like the new poppy, I’m sorry, but it’s not the same.

"But you have to move with the times.”