White rival won’t hit red poppy sales, says Legion
British Legion veterans in Canterbury say record sales of peacepromoting white poppies are unlikely to dent support for its annual Poppy Appeal.
The debate over the effect of the white poppy on sales of the traditional red version has bubbled over nationally in recent weeks, with top military brass clashing with the group behind the pacifist movement, The Peace Pledge Union (PPU).
Former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, Col Richard Kemp, described the white poppy as “an insult to the war dead”, claiming it deprives ex-servicemen of vital funds.
But president of the Royal British Legion’s Canterbury branch, Gerry Ferrett, does not expect a dip in red poppy sales in the city.
“They are completely different things,” he said. “The red poppy is about our men and women who gave their lives in wars.
“It wasn’t their choice, they served their country and died and we are remembering them through the red poppy.
“That is the Legion’s symbol of remembrance.
“In some cases people wear them both, but I’m not convinced it will have a great effect on red poppy sales.
“And it must be remembered that the red poppy has a specific purpose as well as remembrance, because the money raised goes to support those British servicemen and women who have suffered, and their families.”
Mr Ferrett says collectors for the Poppy Appeal this year are reporting particularly brisk business, similar to last year when the branch collected a total of £72,000.
“I think the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the stories about the Somme and Passchendaele touched people and contributed to the giving,” he said.
Launching this year’s white poppy campaign, the PPU said that high sales in recent years were in part “due to growing unease with the Legion’s approach”.
The PPU is the oldest secular pacifist organisation in Britain and has been campaigning for a warless world since 1932.
It is promoting the white poppy as a symbol of commitment to peace and to remember all those who have died, both military and civilians, in all wars on both sides.
PPU co-ordinator Symon Hill says people buying white poppies have been put off the red version by the “British Legion’s increasingly nationalistic tone and sidelining of civilian casualties”.
“White poppies represent remembrance of all victims of war, both civilians and members of armed forces, of all nationalities,” he said. “They also represent a commitment to peace and a rejection of attempts to glorify war.
“The Royal British Legion imply that their way is the only way of doing remembrance. But if our remembrance is to be meaningful, we must recognise the reality of war and learn from it, and that means campaigning for peace.” Canterbury Legion president Gerry Ferrett
A remembrance service will be held at Christ Church, in William Street, from 9.30am to 10.30am on Sunday.
A parade will then form in William Street and march to the Memorial Park via High Street.
There, a service, including a two-minute silence, will run from 11am to around 11.45am and be followed by wreath laying.
A remembrance parade will start at Queens Hall in Forbes Road on Sunday and be led by the Brigade of Gurkhas.
The 41-strong band will lead the march to the War Memorial in Stone Street, where wreaths will be laid in memory of the town’s fallen.
A service will be held at the parish church before the parade marches up Preston Street, where the Mayor of Faversham, Cllr Shiel Campbell, will take the salute.
Former lord mayor, Cllr George Metcalfe, and Mrs Lillian Metcalfe will attend Remembrance Sunday at the War Memorial, Oxford Street on Sunday, followed by a reception at the Royal British Legion Club. Service starts at 10.30am.
The white poppy, above, promoted by pacifist group Peace Pledge Union, has been described as ‘an insult to the war dead’, with claims it deprives ex-servicemen of the vital funds that are raised by the selling of the British Legion’s traditional red version