Top secret past of Mrs Poppy

Mrs Poppy.
Mrs Poppy.

YOU may know her as Mrs Poppy. But in another life she was the government’s trusted guardian of top-secret documents.

Dianne Loates escorted files to and from the States by order of the Ministry of Defence as part of her 16-year career.

“I even had someone to escort me escorting the information!” exclaimed the James Bond character.

But these days her passion lies in something completely different.

Poppies. And the Royal British Legion.

“I was 28, and my father said I needed to do something useful with my life.

“So I joined the Legion, and was the youngest by 30 years.

“I came to Horsham in 2003. My brother said the club was starting to go downhill and someone on the committee said they needed a fundraiser.”

The charity enthusiast has since been the driving force of huge Poppy Appeal collections. Including a whopping £32,000 last year, and more than £34,000 the year before.

“I’m positive about the fact that we can make a difference just by giving our own time.

“I’m always overwhelmed with the volume of money that comes in from the people of Horsham.

“If you watch the people that put the money in the can there’s absolutely no discrimination of age. I have seen people who are almost homeless putting in 20p, and that makes me feel humbled.

“We had a great result last time - partly because we were based in the old Information shop on East Street - a great location.

“There were a lot of young people coming in looking all confused. ‘Can I help you?’ I’d say, and then they’d reply, ‘I’ve come in for condoms’.

“But it did make me think - perhaps there would be a market for Poppy condoms one day.”

However, this November Dianne faces a challenge.

After spending recent years in the prime location of Horsham town centre, the donation station is now confined to the Legion club on Chichester Terrace.

“I’m gutted. The greater the footfall the more donations we see.

“Although I haven’t got a shop, the centre manager for the council and Crickmays along with Rotary are still working hard to find me something. I cannot fault their effort.

“The frustration lies with the owners of properties who seem to be blinkered to the advantages of short term charity lettings.”

Due to the circumstances, Dianne is forecasting a huge decrease in donations this year. She added: “Could you please find the bottom of your pockets for such a good cause.” Street collections will be held in Horsham town centre from Saturday 5 to Saturday November 12.