The Royal British Legion (RBL) launched its annual Poppy Appeal in central London with an installation that tells 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 those whose stories are featured, including 98-year-old D-Day veteran Bernard Morgan.
Members of the public were invited to choose a poppy from the installation to discover the story of someone who has received help from the charity.
The red poppy – a common sight on the Western Front – has become a symbol of remembrance for those killed 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 helped him meet the challenge of adjusting to post-conflict civilian life.
“It’s a wonderful thing happening and I’m very proud to be here,” he said.
“When people wear their poppy, it’s a mark of respect and pride. I think it’s very important that you wear the poppy and donate where you can as the Royal British Legion can help support soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families as well as veterans in service in their rehabilitation.
“Adapting to the civilian way of life has really not been easy and the Royal British Legion has been there for me and my family from the start.
“Now I have 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 introduced her to other children whose parents were in the military through a charity-funded choir, helping them “get through this together”.
She said: “We can all relate to each other and it’s easier for us to understand because when we say ‘my dad is going to have to go away for six months’ someone else would say ‘it’s going to be fine because we can get through this together because my dad has to leave too so we can both be there for each other”.
Her mother Rachel, 40, said: ‘It makes me sad to think of Imogen going through this. It’s hard, but to be honest, it’s something that’s part of our lives.
“Sometimes we can phone, quite often we have to wait for him to phone us, so every time he does we give up on whatever we’re doing,” she said.
“Children are incredibly resilient and I think they’ve sacrificed a lot to have parents in the armed forces, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Andy Taylor-White, head of fundraising at the RBL, said supporting the charity was a way of showing respect to “veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice” as well as serving members.
“This year in particular, 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 but also the armed forces community today who have need our help,” he said.
“It’s very relevant at the moment. We support people on cost of living allowances, but also veterans who need social assistance and support.
“As a Royal Navy veteran myself, respecting the fact that we have already had generations of veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but also, we have people serving today who are ready to stand up and protect our way of life.”