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You can still wear your poppy with pride in France

Nine branches of the Royal British Legion in France are hard at work raising money to support ex-service personnel and their families

26 October 2016
By Jane Hanks

Just because you live in France does not mean you cannot wear a poppy at this time of the year.

There are nine branches of the Royal British Legion and they all work to make sure as many people as possible are able to obtain one.

The Nice-Monaco branch is one of the oldest. It was founded in 1929 and members will post red poppies to anyone, anywhere in the country, who requests a few or several poppies.

Commander Michael Healy MBE said the important thing is to make sure that the poppy is worn as a symbol of the sacrifice military men and women have made in different conflicts over the years: “My concern is to get poppies out there so that even if there isn’t a Royal British Legion in your area you can wear one and show solidarity with soldiers.

"If you wish, you can make a donation towards looking after the veterans who survived but may be badly wounded as well as their widows and orphans. Last year, our Poppy Appeal raised €14,333 to help wounded service men and women and their dependants. We have around 65 members in our branch and anyone can join. You don’t have to be ex-military or British as we also have French and Italian members and we recruit all the time.”

At the other end of the British Legion age range is the Linazay Poitou-Charentes Branch, which was founded in 2007. It covers an area larger than Wales and has around 110 members. It has raised more than €73,000 since it started, some from fundraising social events and some from the annual sale of poppies.

The main branch is located at Linazay, Vienne, but there is also a group in the Deux-Sèvres, at Parthenay. Public relations officer Eric Edwards said people can join as full members or there is a new way to take part without joining: “You can subscribe to our new mailing list, Friends Of The Poppy, and you will be informed of forthcoming events you may wish to attend. There is no commitment. All our fundraising goes to support all ex-service personnel, young and old and their dependants the world over.”

Another branch which covers a vast area is Bordeaux and southwest France. There are 100 collectors and Poppy Appeal organiser Brenda Vockings said you can find them in pubs, restaurants, markets, gîtes, airports and shops:

“All our poppy collectors are volunteers and give their time and effort gladly. They are cheery souls who brave all weathers to raise funds for the RBL. Throughout the year we try to increase our collectors’ base so that the coverage is greater. Every year many British people go to their local Remembrance services and wear their poppies along with the French equivalent, the Bleuet.”

Because it is such a vast area, a Poppies by Post service was also introduced in 2013 and demand is rising. Membership is open to anyone whether they live in the southwest of France or elsewhere. The branch has around 70 members and is very active despite the chairman and treasurer living some three hours’ drive apart. For the past three years it has come second among all the hundred overseas branches in terms of funds raised per capita and Mrs Vockings says they always welcome new members.

The RBL claims that it existed in France before it existed in England, as Paris was the very first branch to be established on May 14, 1921. The other branches are Somme, Lyon, Nord/Pas de Calais, Cannes-Provence and Central Brittany. RBL France says its branches welcome new members of any nationality and regardless of whether they served in the armed forces. The number of branches and members are increasing in France as the organisation is a natural focus for those interested in the history of Europe and the welfare of those who have served.

All the branches distribute poppies and details can be found on the pages of individual branches via the Royal British Legion in France website

If you want to order Poppies by Post you can do so by email to Commander Michael Healy at mhealy@orange.fr 

For Poppies by Post from the Bordeaux and SW branch you can email vockings@btinternet.com. They also have a Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RBL-Bordeaux-France  

Details of other branches are: Nord Pas de Calais, Col & Mrs Towler, ancamin@aol.com; Cannes, Mr A Buchanan andrew.buchanan@orange.fr; Paris, Mrs J Warby roger.warby@wanadoo.fr;  Lyon, Mrs J Brittain, anthonyabrittain@aol.com; Central Brittany, Mr and Mrs Curtis, kissmekate@orange.fr; and Somme, Mrs I Blake 06 18 51 38 66

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