Prime Minister David Cameron today hosted a party for the Armed Forces to celebrate The Royal British Legion‚Äôs 90th Anniversary and in support of the charity‚Äôs Battle Back Centre for the recovery of Service personnel.
The Prime Minister invited 160 guests to the No.10 Downing Street Poppy Party, including injured Service personnel, bereaved Armed Forces families and veterans of Afghanistan and previous conflicts.
Dame Vera Lynn DBE also attended as a long-standing supporter of the Legion through conflicts since WW2.
The Prime Minister paid tribute to the work of the Legion, commending the charity for its role in supporting Serving and ex-Service personnel, and their families, through nine decades of charitable work.
The Prime Minister said:
“This anniversary year is a time for us to remember just how much the Royal British Legion do to care for our Armed Forces and their families, from those who served in the first two world wars to those who are serving now in Afghanistan.
‚ÄúWhile their needs have changed over that time, the need for the British Legion has not ‚Äď the care and support they provide is as vital now as it was in 1921 and I‚Äôm delighted to support their work.‚ÄĚ
The Legion‚Äôs National President, Lt Gen Sir John Kiszely KCB MC, thanked the Prime Minister for his hospitality and for recognising the Legion’s milestone.
‚ÄúThe Downing Street Poppy Party is a generous gesture for the young Service families who are here today, as well as the older veterans. It serves as a reminder of the Legion‚Äôs support of the ‘Afghanistan generation’ of the Armed Forces and shows the charity is as needed today as when it was formed in 1921,‚ÄĚ Sir John said.
‚ÄúI am thrilled that in our 90th Anniversary year we are able to announce The Royal British Legion Battle Back Centre, which will provide adaptive sports and adventurous training for wounded, injured and sick Service personnel.
‚ÄúThe Legion’s commitment of ¬£50million to personnel recovery, including ¬£30 million towards Battle Back, is on top of the ¬£72 million we spend each year on the direct provision of welfare services. That’s ¬£200,000 each day in help for the Armed Forces family.”
Dame Vera Lynn charmed the crowd at the Downing Street Poppy Party by meeting and chatting to guests, some of whom remembered her as the WW2 Forces Sweetheart.
“I was a little girl of four years of age living in East Ham when The Royal British Legion was formed in 1921. The Legion was there for our boys during World War Two, and it’s still here today for the boys and girls coming back from Afghanistan,‚ÄĚ Dame Vera said.
“I’m delighted that The Royal British Legion Battle Back Centre will help the injured find a new lease on life through sports and adventure, and proud to help the Legion celebrate its 90th birthday.”
Cpl Stephen Curley of 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in May 2010. Today his widow Kirianne Curley, 28, arrived for the party with their 18-month-old son, William.
“I’m honoured to be joining The Royal British Legion at Number 10 Downing Street,” she said. “The support we’ve received from the Legion in the aftermath of Stephen’s death has been invaluable. I had a 17-week-old baby to look after when I was told Stephen had been killed, and just having local Legion support in Devon meant a great deal.
“A military inquest into Stephen’s death is due to be heard in the near future, and I have already been offered legal assistance from the Legion. I know there is someone there for me during what can be a very distressing and clinical process.
“William and I are also due to take a holiday courtesy of the Legion. Such gestures will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she added.
The party also hosted some of our outstanding Armed Forces heroes, such as Lance Corporal Matt Croucher GC who was awarded a George Cross for bravery in action while serving in Afghanistan; and Able Seaman Kate Nesbitt MC, the first woman in the Navy to receive the Military Cross for administering aid to a comrade while under enemy fire. Both are active Legion supporters.
There were also many heroes invited who were severely injured in Service, such as Gunner Mark Stonelake of 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, whose left leg was amputated in December 2008 after the vehicle he was driving hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan; and 27-year-old triple amputee and former Royal Marine Mark Ormrod, wounded in Afghanistan on Christmas Eve in 2007.
The Downing Street Poppy Party was held as part of the Great Poppy Party Weekend, a summer celebration of the charity‚Äôs 90th year from 10th - 12th June.
Supporters across the nation will throw their own parties to raise funds for the Legion’s vital welfare work.
The Legion helps with 160,000 cases to assist members of the Armed Forces family each year. Its support is available to all those serving in the Armed Forces today, all who have served in the past, and their dependents.