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THE Royal British Legion proudly marched into the 2017 Poppy Appeal heads held high and standards flying along Benidorm’s Levante Promenade.
The swirl of pipes and beat of drums announced the start of the annual parade along the seafront for a short but moving ceremony at the Rincon de Loix last Friday.
Visitors to the resort abandoned sunbeds on the beach and drinks at the bars and cafes as they were drawn by the music of the Torrevieja Pipes and Drums to photograph the colourful sight.
And once again Chelsea Pensioners Skippy Teasdale and Wayne Campbell were at the heart of the parade, waving to the crowd from their motorised wheelchairs.
The Legion’s 2016 Poppy Appeal raised £46.6 million in total – District North Spain contributing over €165,000 – and the charity spends £1.2 million a week on its welfare work supporting servicemen and women, veterans, and their families.
A traditional two-minute silence was staged at the Rincon, hundreds of people observing the mark of respect and remembering those who gave their lives for freedom over generations.
In a mark of solidarity with Spanish hosts, the victims of the Barcelona terror attack and those who lost their lives to terrorism across Europe were also honoured.
Crowds gathered before the standards at the podium, where District North Chairman Don Cubbon said: “On this day 100 years ago during World War One, thousands of men were fighting and dying in the fields of Belgium, in the north of Italy, the deserts of the Middle East, and in countries across the world.
“As a result of their losses and the losses of their wives, children and parents; the Royal British Legion was formed in 1921. It was founded as a charitable organisation whose aim was to help and support serving and retired military personnel and their dependants.
“This has remained the primary purpose of the Royal British Legion through the last 100 years and it will continue to do the same through the years ahead.”
He said the other “key role” of the Legion was as the Custodians of Remembrance. “Every year at 11am on the 11th of November, our colleagues and friends around the world will pause, fall silent, respect a two-minute silence, and remember fallen comrades; everyone will take time to remember friends and loved ones who have passed on.”
Mr Cubbon added: “We here in Spain will also stand with our Spanish hosts and friends, and remember in a spirit of solidarity, those who also lost their lives in recent terrorist incidents in Barcelona and elsewhere; and those who lost lives across Europe.”
He underlined how the work of the Legion was only made possible thanks to the “generosity of you, the general public”.
And he said he urged people to give whatever they could to support this “worthy cause”, the 2017 Poppy Appeal, continuing: “The poppy that grew so profusely in the Fields of Flanders is our emblem.”
Una Cleminson, the National Vice Chairman of the Royal British Legion, was one of the special guests at the ceremony, wished the district “good luck” with its 2017 Poppy Appeal.
She said it was her second visit to a Legion even abroad. “It is heart-warming to see the support outside the UK.”
Mrs Cleminson said in July the Legion had celebrated the 100th anniversary of ‘Women at War’ and she had also been proud to visit the opening of a new rehabilitation centre for veterans in Loughborough – officially opened by Prince William – where the charity had funded the building of a gym at accost of £5 million.
Mayor of Benidorm Antonio Perez welcomed the Legion to Benidorm at the start of another appeal; he said: “I wish to express my gratitude for the great work done by the Royal British Legion through the ‘Poppy Appeal’ to come to the aid of those who need it most.
“This altruistic labour that unites so many good-willed men and women does not only take place in the UK but also here in Spain and Benidorm. It is an honour for me and for Benidorm to share this celebration with you; a celebration that, moreover, serves to witness the friendship that unites the British and Spanish people.”
He continued: “As mayor, and on behalf of the whole corporation and people of Benidorm, I congratulate you on this work and on the values that you represent; of solidarity and service to our society.”
He said the town would always welcome the Legion and the launch of the Poppy Appeal. “We are united by the same concerns, the same hopes and the same values. It is a friendship that is cemented generation after generation.”
Mr Perez added: “The Royal British Legion is an example that the only possible path to the future is fraternity between peoples, and the Poppy Appeal is the way to mobilise help for those who need it most.
“I would like to encourage the Royal British Legion to continue working in the defence of those values that unite us. I also encourage and congratulate the thousands of volunteers who, altruistically and anonymously, work every day so that we can live in solidarity in a fair world.”