Sleepless nights for Aylsham ex soldier in Poppy Day fund-raiser

Mental arithmetic might just help keep ex-soldier Paul McGrath awake through a marathon 90 hours of fund-raising for the Royal British Legion (RBL) next month.

Mr McGrath, 39, decided to play the numbers game when he was racking his brains for ways to support the annual Poppy Appeal.

He opted for the marathon to mark this year's RBL 90th anniversary and has precisely timed his street-collecting stint to end at 11 minutes past 11am on Armistice Day - the 11th day of the 11th month.

Electrician Mr McGrath, of Sapwell Close, Aylsham, served with the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment from 1993-2000 and his postings included Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

He remembers surviving on just seven hours sleep in 10 days while serving in West Belfast during The Troubles in 1996 but thinks keeping his eyes open through four nights in Aylsham's Market Place may be more difficult.

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'There was a bit more adrenalin flowing when I was in the forces because of call-outs and patrols,' he recalled.

An Aylsham Town Councillor, Mr McGrath will be based in a marquee outside the town hall and friends, colleagues and businesses are already rallying round to support him during the feat which will begin at 5.11pm on Monday November 7.

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Fellow members of Aylsham and District RBL, and the RBL Women's Section, will mount displays, keep him occupied with cards, dominoes and other games, sell RBL merchandise, and buglers will play the Last Post each evening when RBL standards will be lowered.

Mr McGrath hopes members of the public will also call in to chat, share their military memories and tell him tales so riveting that he will stay wide-eyed and alert.

'Military people like nothing better than to yak about the old times and I'm hoping people will do a stint with me,' said Mr McGrath who anticipates that the wee small hours from about 2am will prove his biggest challenge.

His old battalion will be staging a recruitment display on the Tuesday and Wednesday and Aylsham's army cadets will also be involved.

Wife Karen and daughter Mia, eight, have also promised to put in regular appearances.

Mr McGrath said he would like to raise �9,000 to mark the RBL's 90th year and has appealed for anyone who can help him reach his target to ring him on 07853 864178 or email

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