Former Lancashire servicemen meets PM to launch Poppy Appeal

Former serviceman Alan Hughes, from Coppull, who is  taking part in the Poppy Appeal launch  in London -  pictured with his Guide Dog Kim.
Former serviceman Alan Hughes, from Coppull, who is taking part in the Poppy Appeal launch in London - pictured with his Guide Dog Kim.
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The Prime Minister will receive a special visit from a proud former Lancashire serviceman today as the nation’s Poppy Appeal is launched.

Alan Hughes, who was injured in Northern Ireland, will deliver the first poppy to Mr Cameron in London.

More than 30 military serving personnel, veterans and their families will take part in an inaugural Poppy Parade – taking the first official poppy of this year’s appeal from the Royal British Legion’s headquarters to Mr Cameron at Downing Street.

Mr Hughes, 63, of Coppull, near Chorley, served in the Royal Corps of Transport from 1969-79.

While on a peace-keeping mission in Northern Ireland, he was blown up after driving over an IED.

He sustained injuries to his face and in 1993 lost most of his sight.

Mr Hughes is the Royal British Legion ‘poster boy’ for this year’s advertising campaign. Posters will appear in train stations across the UK.

He said he was proud to have been chosen for the ceremony and praised the help the Royal British Legion had given him - and was providing for others.

“I want to emphasise the work the British Legion is doing in supporting wives of bereaved soldiers and their children - they are often forgotten,” he said.

“They have to find a house, jobs and schools and it’s really hard.”

Mr Hughes, who is a member of Coppull Parish Council, remembers little of the explosion

He was the troop staff sergeant and was driving an armoured ambulance when cars parked on the inside of a roundabout forced him to drive further around and over a manhole cover.

He was blown out of the ambulance and hit a wall with his head. The steel door from the ambulance then blew off and hit him in the other side of his head.

He was then shot in his lower arm and then beaten up,

Alan said: “There were a lot of people who went through a lot worse than me. All right I am lucky. I have had a good life since.”

Father of two Alan, who is also a schools ambassador for Guide Dogs for the Blind, said: “When I came out of the army I was not an easy person to live with. I have PTSD, I have flashbacks. My wife Gina is a gem, my kids are as well.”

Alan contacted the Legion for support in 2013 and a Poppy Calls handyman fitted a gate for his garden and put shelves and a new desk in his study. Alan and his wife Gina have also enjoyed a Poppy Break at Byng House after the couple had not had a holiday in 12 years.

The photographs for this year’s campaign were taken in E Reeves studio in Lewes which has been in operation since the First World War.

The current owner is the great grandson of the photographer who took portraits of service personnel before they went to war, and he still has the same studio and camera that his great grandfather used all those years ago.

The Royal British Legion is inviting people in Lancashire to uncover the story behind the poppy during the Poppy Appeal 2015.

The fundraising target in Lancashire is £950,000 which will go towards the Legion’s national target of £41 million to continue its vital work delivering practical, through life care and support to the Armed Forces community.

Charles Byrne, The Royal British Legion’s director of fundraising, said: “The Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as it has ever been supporting today’s generation of service personnel, veterans, and their families whether living with an injury or illness, coping with bereavement or finding employment.

“We’re encouraging people to dig deep for this year’s Poppy Appeal to help us raise £41 million.

“The Legion’s work is entirely dependent on the public’s generous support – so please wear your poppy with pride, knowing that you are helping the Armed Forces community to live on.”