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Steve Newson, Poppy Appeal Organiser
Photograph: Rob GreigS

Things you only know if you’re a poppy seller

By Claire Wong

…according to Steve Newson, 58.

Many poppy sellers have benefited themselves from the funds raised

I joined the army in 1981 and started two years’ service in Northern Ireland. The following year, while I was back in England, I was injured in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings. When I came out of the military, the Royal British Legion bought me a TENS machine [stimulating nerves through electric current], which eases the pain in my back and leg. They also helped me with materials for the college course I had started.

The Royal British Legion isn’t just about remembrance

When I first joined my local branch in 1979, it was just for the club and the cheap beer! It was only when I retired from work due to my injuries that I started working as a branch secretary, and raising money for the Legion through selling poppies each year. It keeps your brain active, and ex-marines and servicemen have all got a close bond with each other, no matter what regiment you’re from. We’ve got each other’s backs.

People from overseas are as generous as Brits

They ask questions and we’re able to explain what it’s all about: that every serviceman who lost his life is represented by a poppy. Whatever country they were from, they were all conscripted, fought side by side and perished. To me, it’s really uplifting seeing people from places like Germany and Japan buying poppies.

Some poppy sellers start very young

One year, a kid from Dagenham – he was only about five – made all these poppy badges from felt for the appeal. We took him down to the Lord Mayor’s Show and gave him a load of goodies to thank him for what he did – it was really good of him!

Learn more about the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

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