I’m sure this will be controversial but I no longer support The Royal British Legion and therefore do not buy or wear a poppy.
My father served in the Second World War, my uncles served and one was a prisoner of war in Changi POW camp. My Grandfather and his brothers served in the First World War. I, my husband and brother-in-law served in the Royal Air Force during the Falklands and my Nephew is still serving in the Navy.
So I have a military history and grew up hearing the stories of trenches and battles. My Grandfather survived a bayonet attack and had a steel plate in his head from a shrapnel wound.
When I retired I volunteered as a Poppy co-ordinator and fund-raiser for the Royal British Legion and eventually trained as a case worker. My brother-in-law and sister were committee members, fund-raisers and entertainment coordinators. Even my darling Mummy, at the age of 88, would spend hours wrapping prizes and folding hundreds of raffle tickets.
I support Remembrance and was proud to be one of the Service women who marched down the aisles at the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall during the 1980’s. The falling of poppies at the end of the service was one of the most emotional moments in my service career. What the cameras don’t show is, at the end of the service, military personnel gather the poppies in their hats and take them into the audience handing them out to the audience as ‘mementos’. Over twenty years later I still have the poppies I lifted from the floor on that day. I wear my veterans badge with pride.
So, what has changed?
At the age of 88 my mummy had lived with us in Spain since the age of 82, surviving only on her widow’s pension, she was cared for by us. Full of wit and humour she loved life here in Spain. However, she struggled to climb two flights of stairs to her bedroom. We looked at alternatives such as moving her downstairs but it was very costly to move the bathroom facilities downstairs as well. We realised that the answer was to fit a stair lift, although she was opposed to this as it would ‘ruin the marble staircase’. But we were determined to try anything that would maintain her independence. Because she lived in Spain, she was not entitled to any support from the UK such as carer’s or mobility allowance and knowing her and our military background we turned to The Royal British Legion for support.
Having costed everything and going through a rigorous interview process (covering not only her circumstances, but also those of my sister, her husband and myself) the British Legion refused her any assistance. Now, you may think it was refused on monetary grounds BUT no, the reason the British Legion gave for refusing any help was that ‘a stair lift would add value to the house and because she did not own the house any assistance was refused’.
In the same month, we received our British Legion magazine. The front page article was about an ex-soldier who had his cameras stolen and, as he wanted to be a photographer, they had given him over £1000 to buy new equipment. Perhaps he should have had insurance rather than appeal to the Legion??
Later that year my darling mummy died peacefully in her sleep when her heart gave way.
I support our troops, I remember those who gave their lives so that I could live mine, I support organisations such as Help for Heroes BUT I no longer wear my poppy with pride. All proceeds go to the Royal British Legion, fat cat, bureaucratic, ex high-ranking officers sitting in their newly refurbished offices in London.
I cannot, in all conscience, wear my ‘poppy with pride’ so what is the alternative?
Are there other options? A different flower, perhaps a red rose, a different colour, a different poppy than the corn poppy, perhaps a peony poppy or nothing at all just continue to give support to other organisations?
I look forward to hearing your views and suggestions.
Meanwhile, a poem written by my mummy which was published in a book ‘Heartache and Sorrow – A tribute to those left behind’ in support of Help for Heroes:
We’ve shared so much joy and laughter you and I,
Yet in death I hadn’t time to say goodbye.