My dad joined the RAF when he was 14 as a Boy Apprentice. He won several medals for his work as a flight engineer – as a Chief Tech and Flight Sgt – and was the last recipient of the old British Empire Medal (BEM), since brought back. The RAF admitted that they caused his Multiple Sclerosis and he retired on a full-pay pension. When he died, the RAF admitted responsibility and my mum is accorded full honours as a War Widow and gets a pension from the state accordingly.
He never wore a poppy.
He was registered with RAF Command as a conscientious objector when it came to wearing the poppy and was excused doing so, even when leading his men on the parade ground for November 11 services.
Back then, the poppy’s centre read “HAIG FUND”. Douglas Haig was a mass murderer according to my dad. He could not – EVER – wear something that had a mass murder’s name on it. He felt he might as well have had a swastika or an effigy of Stalin on his lapel. And the RAF respected this.
And, yes, both my parents were members of the British Legion (which does a lot for veterans and is against the politicisation of the poppy as it is simply a flag to note that you’ve donated and should not be bothered by street collectors again), RAFA, SSAFA and the RAF Benevolent Fund… they gave what little money we had to support others with even less.
And my dad never wore a poppy.
Come and have a go at me if you think you’re hard enough.