Poppy Appeal will be going ahead as usual in Harborough – but it will be a slimmed-down version
Organisers said they still have to 'err on the side of caution'
The annual Poppy Appeal will be going ahead as usual in Harborough over the next few weeks – but it will be a drastically slimmed-down version.
The campaign which generates millions of pounds for the Royal British Legion (RBL) nationally every autumn is set to take off to support local armed forces veterans and their families.
But the high-profile mission launched following the end of the Great War in 1918 will again have a very different look as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit the country.
Today Stewart Harrison, 74, chairman of the Market Harborough branch of the RBL, told the Harborough Mail: “We have to do the right thing here.
“Our Poppy Appeal is iconic to all of us – and absolutely right at the heart of all the good work that we do for people in the legion.
“But we have to err on the side of caution.
“So on the one hand we are as determined as ever to raise as much money as we can to support brave ex-servicemen and women across Harborough and their loved ones,” said Stewart, who served in both the RAF and the Army.
“And we will also set out to pay a huge and heartfelt tribute to the tens of thousands of heroic men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for king and country.
“We will salute those magnificent soldiers, sailors and airmen – as well as crucial support staff and medics – who laid their lives on the line in the two world wars and many other smaller conflicts too.
“But as we did last year we will do that again this year in a safe and sensible way,” said the ex-serviceman.
“We have lost enough people already to the coronavirus in the UK since March last year.
“And we will do everything we can to stop this terrible virus striking down any more innocent people in Market Harborough.”
Stewart, of Naseby Square, Market Harborough, said they will not be launching the Poppy Appeal on The Square in the town centre this month as is traditional.
“We’ll be setting up our poppy stall at the indoor market on Saturday October 30 as we did last year.
“We are urging businesses who want a poppy box to come along and collect a box and tin from us there if you’d like to,” said the RBL stalwart.
“Organisations will be able to pick up their wreaths from us there too.
“We also got a fantastic response from townsfolk who bought their poppies from us at the market last year.
“It was incredible how many people made the extra effort to roll up and see us because they wanted to still get behind us,” said Stewart, as the RBL celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
“We have lost about 100 Market Harborough members – over half of our total membership – during the pandemic for one reason or another.
“Some will have died after catching Covid and some won’t.
“But I believe that five RBL branches have had to close just in Leicestershire because of the crisis – with another three in Nottinghamshire closing.
“So this virus is exacting a massive toll among older people, especially, and we have to respect the fact that it’s still very much out there.”
He said they will stage a short service as normal at Market Harborough’s war memorial on The Square on Wednesday November 11 – the official Remembrance Day.
At 2pm on Saturday November 13 the legion will lay a wreath at the RBL Plaque and at the Covid 19 plaque opposite in Welland Park.
And at 3pm that afternoon they will hold the traditional service at the Portico, the town’s treasured First World War memorial, at Rosewood Manor care home on Coventry Road.
Stewart said they will not be holding the usual church service on Sunday November 14, the day being marked as Remembrance Day up and down the country.
“We won’t sadly be having the normal parade down the High Street either.
“We will be staging the annual service on The Square.
“But we are calling on people to stay away if they can so that the area doesn’t become too crowded,” said Stewart.
“It’s a difficult message to put out because Remembrance Day is iconic.
“The whole day mean so much to so many of us – and it’s obviously by far the biggest event on our calendar,” said the proud ex-soldier.
“But we have to honour and cherish our many heroes who have died, been injured and endured trauma over the years without imperilling those who would love to come along.
“And we are hoping with all our hearts that we will back to normal next year as we stage the services and ceremonies that we’ve all come to expect and support.”