Poppy Appeal collector left ‘close to tears’ after being ejected from Billingshurst Railway Station

JPCT 051113 Colin Banks. RBL banned from collecting at Billingshurst station. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 051113 Colin Banks. RBL banned from collecting at Billingshurst station. Photo by Derek Martin

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A volunteer for the Royal British Legion collecting for this year’s Poppy Appeal was left upset and close to tears after being asked to leave Billingshurst railway station.

Colin Banks, from the Royal British Legion, said the collector ‘was met with rudeness and asked to leave on Tuesday October 29’.

The 72 year old local branch president and chairman contacted the County Times after being ‘flooded’ with calls from commuters and travellers enquiring why it had not been possible to buy a poppy at the station this year.

“The general feeling of the people that phone me is of anger,” said Mr Banks, who said he and fellow volunteers have collected for the Poppy Appeal for the past five years at the location without incident, and three years ago they even awarded a Royal British Legion Certificate of Merit to Billingshurst Railway Station.

Collecting from 5.30am to 10am on the first Monday and Tuesday of the yearly two week appeal, which leads up to Armistice Day on November 11, the local branch usually raises about £350, added Mr Banks, who retired from the RAF in 1990 and has served the organisation ever since.

In a statement released to the County Times, Southern Railway stopped short of apologising but did recognise there had been an error of judgement resulting from a ‘personal decision’.

The statement said: “We fully support the collection of donations for the annual Poppy Appeal by Royal British Legion volunteers at all of our stations.

“Billingshurst station is no different and has supported this activity for many years.

“On this occasion, the regular member of staff at Billingshurst was on leave and we will be talking to the individual who was covering for him, who appears to have made a personal decision not to allow the collection to take place about this issue.

 “In the meantime, should the British Legion wish to return to Billingshurst station to resume their collections, they will be most welcome to do so.”

Mr Banks said: “What ever his personal feeling might have been towards the work of the Royal British Legion and the importance of our Armed Forces ; the public and those regular commuters and travellers are disgusted at such action.”

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Sussex Royal British Legion has issued the following list of Remembrance Services and Parades taking place in Sussex on November 10 and 11.

Billingshurst. The Parade will muster at Combe Hill leaving at 10.25 to be in position at the War Memorial for 11am. This will be followed by a service in the Parish Church. In severe inclement weather the Parade and War Memorial dedication will be suspended and events transferred to the Parish Church. In the evening there will be a Remembrance Thanks-giving service at St Gabriel’s Catholic Church Billingshurst at 6.30pm. All Are Welcome.

Henfield. On November 10 the annual parade and church service will take place. The parade will leave the War Memorial in Cagefoot Lane at 9.15am and march to St Peter’s Church where the annual Remembrance Service, commencing at 9.45am will be held. The parade, let by the Brighton and Hove City Brass Band will then return to the War Memorial where a short service of remembrance starting at 10.50am and involving all Henfield churches will take place.

Horsham. November 10, Carfax at 10.45am followed by Church Service, followed by Mobile Bar at the Edwin Hall (end of Telephone Exchange car park). Those marching need to be in the Telephone Exchange car park by latest 10.15am.

Monday November 11, 10.45am 120-plus school children (4yrs to 8yrs), St Mary’s School, plus Chair of the Council, Standards, etc, will honour the original date.

Storrington. Storrington will have a Remembrance Parade starting from the Leisure Centre at 1.50 to arrive at the Storrington Church of St Mary’s by 2.55 for the wreath laying ceremony. Weather permitting, ie, a rain storm could cancel the parade. The Church service would proceed as usual.

West Grinstead. The County Times has also been notified that a two minute silence will observed on November 10 at the West Grinstead War memorial at the junction of Mill Lane and the B2135. Those wishing to participate are invited to gather at 10.45am for the silence at 11am.