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White rival won’t hit red poppy sales, says Canterbury Legion

By Gerry Warren

British Legion veterans in Canterbury say record sales of peace-promoting 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.

The white poppy, promoted by the Peace Pledge Foundation
The white poppy, promoted by the Peace Pledge Foundation

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.

Royal British Legion President Gerry Ferrett
Royal British Legion President Gerry Ferrett

“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”.

Royal British Legion veterans on the poppy appeal stand in Longmarket, Canterbury
Royal British Legion veterans on the poppy appeal stand in Longmarket, Canterbury

“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.”

A dedication of the Field of Remembrance in Longmarket in the city centre will take place at 6pm today.

On Saturday, at 11am there will be a two-minute silence observed at the Cenotaph in Longmarket, when the Last Post will be played.

In the same square, on Sunday at 9.45am, the annual parade will assemble and march towards the Cathedral at 10.05am.

A wreath-laying ceremony will take place at the war memorial in the Buttermarket at 10.22am, followed by a service in the Cathedral at 10.50am.

The march past will follow immediately after from the Cathedral, via Sun Street, Guildhall Street and the High Street, where the salute will be taken at the East Kent Yeomanry Memorial outside Nasons.

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