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War veteran tells of his life as a boy soldier for Norfolk poppy appeal

PUBLISHED: 12:58 28 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 31 October 2017

Poppy petals fly at the launch of the poppy appeal. From left, back, Flying Officer Kim Westell; AB Jamie Barcham; Chelsea Pensioner Jim Lycett; and John Boisson, chairman Norfolk RBL. Front, Wensum Junior schoolchildren, Eve Eccles, Jack Parkins, Amelia Humphreys-Piercy; and Isabella Bonura. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Poppy petals fly at the launch of the poppy appeal. From left, back, Flying Officer Kim Westell; AB Jamie Barcham; Chelsea Pensioner Jim Lycett; and John Boisson, chairman Norfolk RBL. Front, Wensum Junior schoolchildren, Eve Eccles, Jack Parkins, Amelia Humphreys-Piercy; and Isabella Bonura. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

Norfolk children sat wide-eyed as they listened to local war veteran Jim Lycett talk about his experiences as a boy soldier in the 1950s.

Chelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett, chats to schoolchildren at the launch of the poppy appeal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYChelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett, chats to schoolchildren at the launch of the poppy appeal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The students from Wensum Junior School quizzed the former Gorleston resident at the launch of the Norfolk Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal in Norwich yesterday.

The RBL is hoping to top last year’s total, after their campaign, backed by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, helped them to raise a staggering £700,000.

Mr Lycett now lives at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but travelled back to his home county to launch the Norfolk Poppy Appeal, as well as answering questions about his time serving in Germany, Cyprus and Aden.

Jack Perkins, who is nine, asked whether war was scary.

Wensum Junior schoolchildren ask Chelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett questions at the launch of the poppy appeal. Eve Eccles and Jack Parkins. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYWensum Junior schoolchildren ask Chelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett questions at the launch of the poppy appeal. Eve Eccles and Jack Parkins. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It was,” said Mr Lycett, 73. “But we didn’t think about it at the time. We were young, we wanted to be out there.”

Mr Lycett served in the Royal Signals, delivering messages between 1959 and 1984.

“Because we were communicators we weren’t on the front line very much. It was scary if we were stuck on a hill or similar; if you’re stuck in the middle of anywhere in a war you’re in danger. We were communicators yes, but we were soldiers first.”

Amelia Humphreys-Piercy, 11, asked: “What was your relationship like with the other soldiers?”

Chelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett, and Wensum Junior schoolchildren, from left, Eve Eccles, eight; Jack Parkins, nine; Amelia Humphreys-Piercy, 10; and Isabella Bonura, 10; with a World War Two staff car at the launch of the poppy appeal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYChelsea Pensioner, WO2 Jim Lycett, and Wensum Junior schoolchildren, from left, Eve Eccles, eight; Jack Parkins, nine; Amelia Humphreys-Piercy, 10; and Isabella Bonura, 10; with a World War Two staff car at the launch of the poppy appeal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It was like being at school when I first signed up, I was only 15,” said Mr Lycett. “We were in dorms and went to classes. We had holidays at Christmas, it wasn’t unlike being at boarding school.

“We used to play pranks on the nurses and all sorts; you couldn’t get away with it now.”

Mr Lycett now shares a home with other Chelsea veterans, which is funded by the government grants.

Norfolk’s equivalent care home Halsey House in Cromer, is funded by the Royal British Legion. Some of the money raised goes towards the running of it.

Poppy petals fly at the launch of the poppy appeal. From left, AB Jamie Barcham; Flying. Officer Kim Westell; Amelia Humphreys-Piercy; Isabella Bonura; Eva Eccles and Jack Parkins. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPoppy petals fly at the launch of the poppy appeal. From left, AB Jamie Barcham; Flying. Officer Kim Westell; Amelia Humphreys-Piercy; Isabella Bonura; Eva Eccles and Jack Parkins. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The RBL also funds Norfolk initiatives such as outreach nurses for veterans suffering with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as providing mobility scooters for elderly veterans.

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