Poppy Appeal aims to raise £26m

RICHARD PARR They were 100 miles apart and while one was a high profile event in central London involving a famous opera singer, the other was staged in a rain-swept Norfolk village churchyard cemetery.

RICHARD PARR

They were 100 miles apart and while one was a high profile event in central London involving a famous opera singer, the other was staged in a rain-swept Norfolk village churchyard cemetery.

But their aim was the same - to launch the 2006 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and to highlight that the need for funds is as great as ever.

In London's Covent Garden, opera singer Katherine Jenkins dazzled crowds in a dress made of 2,500 poppies and spoke of the importance of the public donating to the fundraising appeal.

"With so many servicemen and women on active service across the world, the Poppy Appeal is needed more today than ever before," said Katherine.

It was a theme also expressed at the Norfolk launch at the Cross of Sacrifice at St Mary's Church, Bircham.

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In his address, Lt Col Tim Cole, said that he believed the Poppy Appeal in 2006 was just as relevant as it had been in the past.

Then, following a moving Act of Remembrance in pouring rain, young members of King's Lynn sea cadets and air training corps (42F) placed wooden crosses at the graves of 66 Commonwealth and 11 German soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and were laid to rest in Bircham churchyard, the first war grave cemetery to be completed after the second world war.

Nationally, last year, the Poppy Appeal raised £24m and this year it hopes to top that by a further £2m to continue offering its services of counselling, job training, welfare grants and remembrance travel to war graves. Katherine, now dubbed the "Forces Sweetheart" who has entertained troops in Iraq and Kosovo, called on people all over the country to wear their poppies with pride.

"Eighty-five years after the first Poppy Day, our brave servicemen and women are still putting their lives on the line for us and they need to know that if they fall on hard times, the legion will be there for them and their families."

In Norfolk, the work of the legion goes on with a £7m re-furbishment being carried out at the Horsley House residential home at Cromer, one of seven operated in the UK by the legion.