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Remembrance made poignant by Afghan war

PUBLISHED: 11:51 12 November 2009 | UPDATED: 17:19 25 August 2010

STANDARD RESPECT: Veterans at Sidcup War Memorial on Sunday.

STANDARD RESPECT: Veterans at Sidcup War Memorial on Sunday.

DEATHS and injuries to soldiers serving in a war zone have boosted support for this year s poppy appeal, according to a British Legion branch chairman. Chairman of Bexleyheath and Welling British Legion, Paul Grest, has seen the effect on residents of so

DEATHS and injuries to soldiers serving in a war zone have boosted support for this year's poppy appeal, according to a British Legion branch chairman.

Chairman of Bexleyheath and Welling British Legion, Paul Grest, has seen the effect on residents of soldiers dying in Afghanistan while out collecting for the annual poppy appeal.

The Legion's appeal raises money to help injured men and women from all conflicts, providing financial support and welfare to soldiers, bereaved families and widows.

Mr Grest said: "Without doubt, the events in Afghanistan over the last year have brought the reality of war home to people.

"We collected outside ASDA in Bexleyheath and more people were putting in donations, they came up to us and wanted to talk about the current conflict in Afghanistan.

"It has clearly affected residents more than usual."

He attended The Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall where there was a public outpouring of support.

Mr Grest said: "It was very moving. For the first time ever right at the end after the parade was dismissed the whole auditorium cheered. I've never seen that happen before.

"Support for our troops has never been greater, though not necessarily for the government."

He said the deaths this year of the last WWI veterans Henry Allingham and Harry Patch made events more poignant, adding: "Now they have all died it makes it more important to remember the sacrifices made."

To mark Remembrance Day last Sunday, children from South Rise Primary School, Brewery Road, Plumstead, laid a wreath at St Michael's Church, in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling.

South Rise pupils have completed an exhibition on the theme of remembrance, using archives from soldiers from WWI to the present day.

Head teacher Soheila Mathison said: "As a multi-cultural and multi-faith school it's crucial for us to teach the history of our country, what made Britain so fantastic and why people have chosen to adopt it.

"November is a special month for us as we remember the fallen. It's essential for the children to know why November 11 is significant."

Bexley Mayor Bernard Clewes attended a Remembrance Sunday service at St John the Evangelist Church, in Sidcup, at the invitation of Sidcup and Foots Cray branch of the Royal British Legion.

It was followed by wreath laying at the War Memorial, in The Green, Sidcup.

Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin attended a service of Remembrance for the Merchant Navy at St Paul's Church, Northumberland Heath, last Saturday.

Mr Austin said: "Of course, it is right that around Remembrance Day we remember the members of the armed forces who gave their lives in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, but we should never forget those members of the merchant fleet who perished, or were wounded or suffered horrendous

conditions.

"The Merchant Navy suffered some of the heaviest loss of life and casualties in the Second World War.

"If it had not been for their convoys, carrying supplies, food and munitions, the allies could not have won the war.

"Similarly, victory in the Falklands would not have been possible without the Merchant Navy.

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