THE Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2014 is now underway throughout the Midhurst and Petworth area with a special poignance this year, the centenary of the start of the first world war.
Among the street collectors in Petworth again this year will be Peter Laughton, a veteran of the Battle of Monte Cassino, who although over 91 years old and confined to a wheelchair, is determined to play his part.
Petworth and District Poppy Appeal organiser Ian McNeil said: “Few will forget his determination in getting to his feet in the church last Remembrance Sunday to deliver an inspiring talk on the experience of his platoon - part of D Company, 2nd Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders - in the front line at the Battle of Monte Cassino.”
He described vividly how the company came under sustained sniper fire as they clung onto their positions on the slopes below the Abbey.
“For much of the time the two front lines were no more than 25 yards apart with the German forces having the advantage that they could see into our positions,” said Mr Laughton, “meaning that movement was only possible under cover of darkness.”
The Cameron Highlanders had relieved the Royal Sussex Regiment, which had appalling casualties.
They, in turn, suffered badly and Peter Laughton was himself wounded.
He is now resident in the Petworth Cottage Nursing Home.
Street collections take place in the centre of Petworth tomorrow (November 1) when there will be a display of historic military vehicles, and also again on November 8.
Mr McNeil said: “This represents a tremendous team effort by our collectors, most of whom have been supporting the appeal for many years, some in spite of failing health. We should all be immensely proud of their achievement last year when we managed to raise just under £15,000.”
He stressed: “The Royal British Legion and other armed services charities must continue to bear much of the responsibility for doing what they can to mitigate the horrors of war.”