One of the most important and indeed poignant dates in The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre’s calendar, the launch of the 2012/2013 County Poppy Appeal took place on Saturday 27 October.
Held in the main hangar, with Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane as an impressive backdrop, the event is recognised as the largest in the United Kingdom to mark the launch of the annual appeal, in aid of The Royal British Legion. The Lincolnshire branch raised a highly commendable £807,000 from the 2011/2012 appeal. Speaking at the event, Brigadier Barry Reeves, the Lincolnshire County President, set this years’ target at £850,000. The President congratulated and thanked everyone for their efforts to date, but noted that The Poppy Appeal covers only half of the Legion's annual welfare spend; a figure in the region of £72 million. Noting the difficult economic climate, The President set the target for the 2012/2013 Lincolnshire appeal at £850,000 – roughly equating to a £1.00 donation from each resident of the county!
For those not familiar with The Royal British Legion, it is the UK's leading Service charity and provides practical care, advice and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families. The annual Poppy Appeal also remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, The Royal British Legion serving as the nation’s custodians of remembrance.
Other dignitaries speaking at the County Poppy Appeal launch were The Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, Mr Tony Worth, and Lieutenant Colonel Julian Pemberton-Pigott from the Headquarters of the Royal Logistic Corps Territorial Army, Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham. Music for the event was provided by the Mareham-le-Fen Victory Silver Band.
Following a break for lunch, Just Jane was towed out from the hangar and prepared for a very important sortie. Marking a first for the museum, Just Jane was to carry out a taxy run and drop 20,000 poppies from the inboard wing flaps - the flaps had been packed a few days beforehand with 10,000 of the bright red flowers in each side. Unfortunately the weather on the day was quite harsh, with frequent and heavy hail showers passing through. At 14:10 the Lancaster pulled up to a position almost opposite the restored control tower, and just as Mike Chatterton and Keith Brenchley increased the Lancaster’s four Merlin engines to 1800 RPM and lowered NX611’s flaps to fully down at 56.5 degrees, an incredibly heavy and blustery shower hit the airfield. As you’ll note from the pictures below it didn’t prevent the poppy drop taking place, and served as a reminder of the poor conditions those on the Home Front had to contend with whilst supporting combat operations during the Second World War.
Despite the weather conditions, the poppy drop was still a very moving and incredibly thoughtful gesture - the whole team at East Kirkby are to be commended for their ‘press on regardless’ spirit on the day.