The Royal British Legion is a cause that has real personal resonance for me and is very close to my heart.
My father, David Swannell, joined the Durham Light Infantry as a regular soldier and fought in the Second World War. He was wounded in Normandy a few days after D-Day – one bullet cut a furrow along the top of his head, another tore a map of Normandy he was carrying. I still have that bloodied map on the wall of my office at home as a reminder of what he and so many others went through. It really puts things in perspective.
I always buy a poppy every year as it is a small yet significant gesture to honour and thank those who bravely served and those who continue to serve. It is an important reminder that we must never forget the sacrifices so many have made to allow us our freedoms.
I am incredibly proud to say M&S have been working with the Legion for a number of years by allowing poppy collectors in store – raising around £1 million every year through M&S customers. The partnership continued to grow and in 2012 we started selling poppy jewellery in partnership with the Legion. These have been extremely popular and have raised more than £700,000 in the last two years.
Earlier this year we supported the Legion with its WW1 Centenary commemorations by selling a poppy candle, we are proud to say this has contributed over £100,000 to our total. Currently on sale are a new range of poppy jewellery items, including a sparkly brooch
and we hope to raise a total of £750,000 this year alone.
M&S are proud to support the Legion in other ways including providing lunch vouchers for the 3,000 uniformed collectors on London Poppy Day and start up packs for the Legion’s new high street pop-in centres.
It is great to see M&S employees also supporting the Legion and I hope others follow in the footsteps of the brave Womenswear team who took on the challenge of cycling to Paris recently, raising an incredible £15,000.
The Legion’s work is outstanding and perhaps many people do not realise the extraordinary work it does quietly year after year. For example, the money raised through the partnership with M&S is used for their Grants programme which supports injured and former Service personnel and their families with help with things such as training and development and independent living. These grants are provided through the 16 regional high street centres which have brought the Legion’s work back onto the high street and much more accessible to those who are in need of support.
As one of the UK’s biggest retailers, we have an important part to play in helping the nation express its support for the Legion’s work through the Poppy Appeal. We recognise the great work the Legion does and it is a charity that’s really important to our employees and customers.