A trip to the Poppy factory
Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
It begins at the end of October – those unmistakable flashes of red on the coats of the nation - and ends in mid-November. But the Poppy Appeal lasts far longer than a fortnight for the team in the Richmond upon Thames factory where remembrance poppies are made all year round, and where we were recently treated to an insightful tour.
This year almost 42 million hand-made paper flowers have been sent to the British Legion for distribution to the general public, which, according to our factory guide Bill, is close to being a record-breaking number. A morbid achievement perhaps, but a necessary one if the profile of the Poppy Appeal is to be maintained.
From the making of individual poppies to the careful and detailed creation of the Royal wreaths, this factory is where it all happens. Matt, who sat busily putting together a RAF wreath (luckily also in the colours of his favoured Rangers football team), told us he had worked at the Poppy Factory for thirteen years. A relative newbie then, compared to the thirty-odd years of service that several members of the 50-strong staff had dedicated to the cause.
The origins of the Poppy Factory date back to 1922 when a young infantry officer by the name of George Howson founded the Disabled Society to help disabled ex-Service men and women after the First World War. Since then the Poppy Factory has changed location three times and increased its full-time workforce ten-fold but little else has changed in its aims and practices. The Poppy Factory remains as important as a means of helping ex-Service men and women in 2010, as it did almost 80 years ago.