Royal British Legion launches 'special' Poppy Appeal in Banbury

(L-R) Chris Smithson, Kieron Mallon and Don Claridge launch Banbury's 2018 Poppy Appeal at Southam Road Cemetery. Photo: Banbury Town Council
(L-R) Chris Smithson, Kieron Mallon and Don Claridge launch Banbury's 2018 Poppy Appeal at Southam Road Cemetery. Photo: Banbury Town Council

Organisers of the Banbury Poppy Appeal are hoping to beat last year's total of over £60,000 in the centenary year of the end of World War One.

The Royal British Legion's Banbury branch launched the appeal with a poignant ceremony at the war graves section of the town’s Southam Road cemetery yesterday (Monday, October 22).

(L-R) Chris Smithson, Kieron Mallon and Don Claridge launch Banbury's 2018 Poppy Appeal at Southam Road Cemetery. Photo: Banbury Town Council

(L-R) Chris Smithson, Kieron Mallon and Don Claridge launch Banbury's 2018 Poppy Appeal at Southam Road Cemetery. Photo: Banbury Town Council

Branch chairman Chris Smithson said: “Last year, Banburyshire people raised more than £60,000 for the appeal – a quite magnificent sum.

“We would like to improve on that total in this special year. The appeal is an opportunity for people to say thank you to those who served and sacrificed – in WW1 and in all conflicts since.

“It really is an important and worthwhile cause and I hope everyone gives generously and wears their poppies proudly.”

The annual appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign and runs until Armistice Day, November 11.

The first Poppy Appeal was held in 1921 – the founding year of the legion – and money raised supports needy members of the armed forces community.

Branch president and Banbury Town Council leader, Kieron Mallon, added: “This year the appeal has special significance as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

"The Royal British Legion was formed after that conflict and has been helping members of the armed forces and their families ever since.

“The war graves were a meaningful place to launch the appeal. They are maintained by the town council as a mark of respect for the fallen.”

Remembrance Day in Banbury this year will have special significance to mark the centenary as in addition to the remembrance tributes, the town will be part of countrywide commemorations of the declaration of peace.

A procession through town will leave Broad Street at 10.15am and a church service in St Mary’s will start at 10.45.

A wreath-laying ceremony at the newly-refurbished war memorial in People’s Park will follow the service.

St Mary’s Church will ring half-muffled bells in the morning, and open bells in the afternoon and evening.

The sombre tone of the muffled bells will recognise the loss of life in the war, and the open bells will represent a celebration of peace.

Banbury’s beacon, in Spiceball Park, will be lit at 7pm – and will be one of 1,000 beacons the length and breadth of the land to be fired at the same time.

Open bells will continue to ring and buglers will add to the atmosphere of the ceremony.

Members of the public are invited to line the streets for the parade, watch the wreath-laying ceremony, and attend the lighting of the beacon.