MBE Celebrations For Chiswick Centenarian Poppy Seller Rosemary Powell

Her 97 years service for the Royal British Legion was honoured at a special ceremony

Rosemary Powell and her sons at the ceremony in Chiswick. Picture: PA/Royal British Legion

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Chiswick resident Rosemary Powell, who is believed to be the longest-serving Poppy collector in Britain, was presented with her MBE at a special ceremony at her nursing home in Chiswick today. (August 7th) Rosemary's sons, Antony, Nicolas and Giles pictured above) joined her as she received her medal.

103 year old Rosemary volunteered for the British Legion for an incredible 97 years – starting as a poppy seller in 1921 as a six year old, when she collected alongside her mother, Evelyn James, on Richmond Bridge.

The recognition for Rosemary Powell's service to the Royal British Legion came in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, but Rosemary has decided that it is time to hang up her collecting tin.

She had been selling poppies since the first ever Poppy Appeal in 1921, when she collected as a six-year-old girl alongside her mother, Evelyn James, on Richmond Bridge.

Today friends and companions gathered in Chiswick to celebrate her big day. Rosemary's final service to the Legion was selling poppies to her friends at the care home but before moving to the home, she sold poppies at Kings Mall centre in Hammersmith in 2015 and 2016 and elsewhere prior to that.

Several people took to Twitter to congratulate her, with one commenting: 'Amazing dedication - this lady puts certain sectors of our society who can’t be bothered with anything to shame'.

Rosemary aged six

Rosemary was a nurse during WW2. She trained up as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment – providing civilian nursing to the military – trained by The Red Cross) nurse and went on to train at St Thomas' Hospital, becoming a ‘Nightingale' nurse. You can read more about Rosemary's eventful life.

The Royal British Legion congratulated her on her MBE and said "Selling her first poppies on Twickenham Bridge with her mother, Rosemary’s efforts to help the military and support the Legion have never wavered, and even included making her own poppies one year, when living in Africa as a missionary."

Rosemary said ,“Ever since the age of six, I've been selling poppies and I remember it all so well. It just so happened that we lived down the road from where the poppies were made [in Petersham, Richmond]. We became aware that that was happening locally. It was easy to get them.”

Her commitment to the Royal British Legion was partly inspired by having a number of family members die in service including her first fiancé Robin Ellis whose Lancaster bomber crashed the day before their engagement was due to be officially announced in 1944.

She also lost her two godfathers (both of whom served in the Army) and three uncles during WW1. Her father (also in the Army – 126 Balluchi and Indian Army Regiment) was badly injured in the Battle of the Somme (he was shot in the head and treated in a field hospital). He later went on to serve in Afghanistan.

Her younger brother, Peter, a Major in the Army, died during WW2. He contracted malaria and died in hospital. He had previously been awarded the Military Cross saving his troops from being pinned down from a machine gun post.

Rosemary Collecting in Kings Mall Hammersmith Rosemary Collecting in Kings Mall Hammersmith

The impact of war on her own family led her to feel compelled to raise funds for those in need. She said, “Ever since I was born there have been soldiers around me. Whether it be family members, friends or even strangers. Sadly war has had a significant impact on my life.”



August 7, 2018

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