One of the most important and indeed poignant dates in The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre’s calendar, the launch of the 2013/2014 County Poppy Appeal was held on Saturday 26 October. With Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane as an impressive backdrop in the packed main hangar, the well supported 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.
This year’s launch of the county appeal was officially opened by Captain Nick Barron of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment (The Poachers), who have just embarked on a tour of Afghanistan. The regiment has recently moved to their new home at Kendrew Barracks, on the site of the former RAF Cottesmore, and despite being based in Rutland the regiment has strong links with Lincolnshire. It recruits heavily from the county, along with other nearby counties such as Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.
The Lincolnshire branch of the Royal British Legion raised in the region of £722,150 from the 2012/2013 appeal; Speaking at the event the Lincolnshire County President, Brigadier Barry Reeves, set this years’ target at £800,000. 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. He said that with 9.5 million potential beneficiaries, the Poppy Appeal funds some 50% of the Legion’s welfare spending, the rest being made up by corporate funding, bequests, and other fund-raising activities.
For those not familiar with The Royal British Legion, it is the United Kingdom’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, with the organisation serving as the nation’s custodians of remembrance.
Welcomed to the launch for the first time was the RAF Coningsby Military Wives Choir, and music for the event was provided by the Mareham-le-Fen Victory Silver Band.
Following the service Just Jane was towed out from the hangar and prepared for her very important annual sortie. The aircraft was to carry out a taxy run and drop 30,000 poppies from the inboard wing flaps - the flaps had been packed the day before with 15,000 of the bright red flowers in each side. Following a taxy run on the grass strip, Andrew Panton and Louise Bush brought Just Jane back to a position almost opposite the restored control tower, and as the four Merlin engines were increased in RPMs the flaps were lowered tofully down at 56.5 degrees, resulting in a most moving sight – a mass of poppies caught in the prop wash and carried away across the museum site.
The next event at L.A.H.C. is the Lancaster night run and fireworks display on 2 November.