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Home Kent News Article
by Mary Graham
At 11am on Sunday, the county – and country – will come to a halt to remember those killed in war.
Most of those attending Remembrance services will be sporting a red poppy in aid of the Royal British Legion.
But few will realise where they have come from.
Quietly, and without much fuss, more than 20 million poppies have been created this year by a loyal band of charity staff in Aylesford.
The only clue to the large-scale poppy and wreath production at the Royal British Legion Village, off Hall Road, is a warehouse with a large poppy stuck outside, nestled among the houses and flats that accommodate ex-servicemen and their families.
Traditionally, production of the paper-and-plastic tributes had taken place at the Legion's factory in Richmond, south west London.
As the Poppy Appeal started to grow, production was split between Richmond and Aylesford, with Aylesford set to produce 20 million poppies. Next year's target is 28 million.
But banish images of workers tumbling poppies on to a massive mound.
Ray Sheppard, head of RBL's Poppy Appeal, said: "The poppies are boxed up straight away, so the factory is dominated by brown cardboard really.
"The constituent parts arrive all year round, though, so we do have piles of little black centres, the green stems, red flowers and green leaves.
"The machines are not huge – they have four stations on a turntable that puts the parts together.
"Production is staggered throughout the year, and the busy time for us is early September, when the poppies need to be distributed, ready for all the local appeals."
The site also handles around 30,000 to 50,000 wreaths every year.
Wreaths are made by hand in Richmond and come to Aylesford, where a library with regimental badges is kept. Once the required badge is added, the wreath is sent on to its final destination.
An Aylesford-produced poppy or wreath could end up in any part of the world.
Mr Sheppard added: "The top four areas we distribute to are the Far East, plus Australia, Canada and Spain - countries where there is a large ex-pat population."
And when you make a donation to a poppy volunteer this year, it is also worth remembering they are there thanks to the RBL Aylesford, too.
The site handles all of the paperwork and street licences needed for the campaign.
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