My earliest memories of wearing a poppy are attending Remembrance services with family as a child. I didn’t really know much about the Legion itself until I met my now wife, who already had connections with her local branch through the Air Training Corps.
My stepfather was in the Army both as a Para and in the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, but had left Service before I met him. We also had a neighbour who used to tell me stories about his experiences of National Service and I always loved hearing them.
I joined in October 2003 as an RAF Regiment Gunner. During my time to date I’ve served a tour of duty in Basra with 34 Sqn; two tours in Kandahar, one with 34 Sqn and one with 15 Sqn; and two tours at Camp Bastion with 15 Sqn, including the handover of the site to the Afghan forces.
Tom (centre) at Camp Bastion in 2014
Supporting a new branch of the Legion
As we were both serving when we moved to West Dereham, my wife and I felt it was important to get involved in the village community.
When we heard that Nick Cann was looking for members to form a new branch of the Legion, we both thought it was a great idea and wanted to offer our support.
Becoming a Standard Bearer
In the lead-up to Remembrance Sunday a few years ago I was asked to second for Paula Kellingray, who had been acting as our Standard Bearer.
I carried the standard for the service at our local church with little training or knowledge, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I offered to become Deputy Standard Bearer – but because Paula had other commitments, she asked me if I’d be willing to take on the Standard Bearer role.
"Our presence shows that The Royal British Legion stands together in honour and respect for all"
Attending the Festival of Remembrance
During one of our branch meetings, Nick mentioned to me that the opportunity was being offered for volunteer Standard Bearers to attend the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall; I immediately voiced my interest, so the branch put me forward.
I can honestly say that the whole experience was one of the proudest moments of my life. It showed me how much the Legion is like a family and how we are all there to support each other.
The raw emotion in the Royal Albert Hall was clear to see on everybody’s faces, and I’m not afraid to admit that it brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion over the two performances.
Representing the Legion
I have recently been asked to represent the Legion at two local funerals. On both occasions, the families of the deceased have told me how much it has meant to them.
I think it helps to demonstrate that no matter how long someone served or how long ago they left Service, there is a support network there for them and their families. I believe this is a very important act of homage, whether you are the only person there or one of hundreds.
Our presence shows that The Royal British Legion stands together in honour and respect for all, whether fallen in battle or passing peacefully.
Help support the Armed Forces community
The Legion provides support for thousands of people a year, whether they’re a veteran or currently serving.
Help us continue to providing the support that people need.