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Selling poppies, remembering servicemen & women

November 11, 2010

With a steely determination I could only stand to one side, admire and then photograph, one war veteran took up his position on Charing Cross Station concourse intent on pricking the conscience of early morning commuters.

The British Legion campaign has built on the efforts of recent years. Hard-hitting campaigns (‘It Only Takes A Minute’ superimposed on an image of an amputee fitting his leg) makes for suitably arresting consideration you’re waiting for a Jubilee Line train at Bond Street. Being able to donate a fiver (or thereabouts) just by sending a text makes giving money more easier than we thought possible or indeed we thought necessary. And of course, the two minute silence video makes for good PR. All these campaigns successfully embed the British Legion, servicemen and women, conflict and the poppy firmly in the minds of those of us who have no personal experience of or connection conflict past and present.

Today’s poppy seller on Charing Cross Station was an elderly veteran. The first I saw braving the elements out on London Bridge a couple of weeks back weeks back were young, fresh faced sea cadets. The effect is the same. The sight of both representatives – young and old – reminds us to hand over the money.

The British Legion have an easier ‘sell’ in comparison to other charities. At least it feels that way. You’ll never hear anyone complaining about people collecting for the British Legion in the same way you’ll hear people complain about chuggers who still reckon there’s a chance you might be persuaded if they could only have 30 seconds of your time. This is the one time of the year when the commitment is unwavering. To not signal allegiance in some way seems borderline shameful.

But the key – for me – is remembering. Giving the money is vital but we still need to remember the sacrifice. I’m more sombre and reflective – hence why I prefer to mark things on Sunday morning. Even so, the fact that there is an event at Trafalgar Square with – presumably – a more upbeat mood is another indication that marking Armistice Day is changing, securing the future of it and the charities who benefit from it.

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From → Life & Society

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