Dedicated poppy seller marks 40th anniversary

The poppy seller is marking his 40th anniversary as a volunteer. Picture by UK Power Networks.
The poppy seller is marking his 40th anniversary as a volunteer. Picture by UK Power Networks.
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A poppy seller in Burgess Hill who has raised £25,000 for war veterans is marking his 40th anniversary as a volunteer.

Fred Wheatland, 61, an electricity substation inspector for UK Power Networks, of Fairfield Road, Burgess Hill, spends two days a week in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday working on the Poppy Appeal for The Royal British Legion, the UK charity for British Armed Forces.

“UK Power Networks is keen on charity work and I find the two days I am given to spend on the appeal very useful.

“The company is very caring in allowing staff to do charity work in company time and my managers are very supportive,” said Fred.

He added: “The best part about being a poppy seller is hearing people’s stories about loved ones who served in the wars.

“Some stories bring a lump to my throat when I hear about what their dad or grandad did during the war.

“We have regular visitors who wait for us to visit the superstore, including a man who lost his leg in one of the conflicts.”

Fred helps coordinate the annual Poppy Appeal fundraising activities at Tesco in Jane Murray Way, Burgess Hill, with help from UK Power Networks, where he has worked for the last 38 years.

He also spends an extra three days a year out of his own holiday pot to work on the appeal.

“I willingly give my free time for those who have suffered and those who continue to suffer as a result of conflicts,” Fred said.

“We are here living the life we do thanks to those who fought for us. This is my way of expressing thanks to those who sacrificed so much for us.

“If nobody had fought for us our country would not be the one it is today.”

Fred’s grandfather, Frederick Kingsley, fought in the First World War during the Battle of the Somme. As a result of an injury in the battle he had part of his finger amputated, without anaesthetic, before being sent back into battle.

His step-father, John Allen, was shot down south of Paris in the Second World War as an RAF pilot and was smuggled back to England by the French resistance. He suffered burns and received treatment on his return to England.

Fred said both his grandfather and stepfather were ‘very private’ and ‘never talked about what they went through’, which he thinks was ‘very harrowing’ and because they ‘did not want to relive it’.

Lauryn Selby, The Royal British Legion’s Community Fundraiser for West Sussex, said the Poppy Appeal ‘would not be possible without the support they receive each year from people like Fred, who are the heart of the fundraising drive’.

She added: “The appeal would not be the same without Fred and the thousands of other volunteers who give up their time to uphold the memory of the fallen and support the future of the living.”

The Poppy Appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign held every year in November, the period of Remembrance.

Fred will be starting his annual collection at Tesco in Jane Murray Way, Burgess Hill, on November 7 and encourages people to volunteer their time to become Poppy Appeal collectors to support The Royal British Legion’s annual appeal.

Each year more than 350,000 volunteers are needed across the country to raise much-needed funds to support current and former armed forces personnel and their families.

The legion is looking for people of all ages and backgrounds to help run the Poppy Appeal.

Volunteers are being sought for areas across West Sussex including Aldwick, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Handcross, Middleton on Sea, Mudham, Pulborough, and Worthing.

Anyone who would like to be a volunteer for the appeal can contact Lauryn Selby, The Royal British Legion’s community fundraiser for West Sussex, on 07768 257416 or email LSelby@britishlegion.org.uk.

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