Sunday , May 22 2022

What it's like to work for the poppy apple: It's tough, but rewarding too


Since 2015, Royal British Legion fundraiser Annmarie Jones has coordinated the poppy apple in North Staffordshire because it is a cause that is very close to her heart.

The 53-year-old served in the Royal Air Force for 18 years and retired as a squadron leader in 2002.

But this is not the only reason why mom to two is so passionate about working for armed forces charity.

Her late father, James Albert Clifford, served privately with Ox and Bucks Light Infantry during World War II.

"He called up in June 1944, he was 18 at the time and went to France. In October 1944 he participated in a group that entered Belguim and Holland before joining Germany at Reichswald.

"In February 1945 he got shrapnel in his foot. He flies back to Britain and spend two and a half years in hospital.

"He never talked about it until he was near the end of his life. He told me a young man he served, shot a sniper when standing next to him.

"He told me he never forgot him or the other he was serving and every day he would think about them.

"I was in my 40's at this time and he had never told me this before. He died in leukemia from October 2011," explains Annmarie.

Her grandfather William Victor Belsey had served in the First World War with the Kent Regiment

"I do not know much about him. I know he was released in 1917 after being gassed, but I do not know what happened.

"He died 1955 long before I was born so I never met him. I know it was a tough experience for him and he has never had good health afterwards," Annmarie, married to Mark and mother of Hannah, 22 years and Harry , 18 years.

"They were both so young when they went to war, I never thought about it until my own son came close to 18.

"We owe people like my dad and my grandfather so much, because of them we have the freedoms we like today," she adds.

Thanks – Annmarie and Tony

Annmarie, who grew up in Norwich, was only 19 herself when she completed her education at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

"From a young age, I wanted to be in the air force. I left school at 18 and went to work at NatWest before I went to RAF Cranwell.

"I got a mission after going to work in May 1985. I had the most amazing time, I always say it was a great place to grow up because you are surrounded by all these traditions and standards," explains Annmarie.

She was an administrative officer who worked with recruitment of education and budgets in places in Britain from Wrexham to Aberdeen.

Annmarie retired from RAF 2002 because she had two young children and it felt the right time for her to leave.

A spelling that served as business manager for the British Association for Local History, and since 2015, she found out about the community's fundraiser position at the Royal British Legion.

"For my 50th birthday, I decided to take a bike ride from London to Paris, and through my collection I found out about this job and realized that was what I wanted to do," Annmarie said. This year ended a collection trip from London to Ypres for charity.

"It was very fun cycling with like-minded people who all had their own story of why they supported the legion.

Since Annmarie took over the booklets in the poppy apple in northern Staffordshire, which includes Stafford and the National Memorial Arboretum, the raised amount has increased from £ 504,000 2015 to £ 620,000 last year.

She coordinates and supports 50 appeal organizers who have about 800 volunteers who work tirelessly to organize gathering events and sell poppies every November during the memory period.

As part of her role, she is also linked to companies in the area that have included securing the support from Staffordshire-JCB that launched this year's appeal.

The company also created a Lest We Hide mini-digger, which has a reddish poppy of red poppies sold on auction for the help of charity.

All the money taken from the poppy appellant goes against the work of the Royal British Legion, providing lifelong support to members of the royal navy, British army, royal air force, veterans and their families.

"I really love my job – it can be difficult sometimes but it's incredibly rewarding and I have a big bunch of volunteers who do everything they can to get important funds to our recipients.

"The Royal British Legion is a highly loved and highly respected charity. It was formed in 1921 so veterans and their families could get the help they needed and the work of the legion is as relevant today as it was 1921," Annmarie said.

She also praised the generosity of people who donate to the appeal. "Nobody ever walks past a collector without giving. Often they will quit and talk to use and share their story if it's their mother, dad or brother or where or still in armed forces.

"It's great to hear stories, but sometimes it can be quite sad too. I had a lady tell her about her grandchild who was ex-army and took her own life," Annmarie said.

To give back – charity is respected

"She said," I wish he had the help he needed, but he never asked for it. "It's important that people know we are here to help them.

"It's very important to me as a collection that we do our best to ensure that the next generation gets the help they need, whatever and fast."

  • See or call the free support line at 0808 802 8080.
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