To launch this year’s Royal British Legion Gloucestershire County Poppy Appeal, around 1,400 GCHQ staff – both civilian and military – worked together to create a giant poppy in the centre of the iconic GCHQ ‘doughnut’ building in Cheltenham.
Representing remembrance of the past and hope for the future, the stunning poppy was created using Royal Navy personnel wearing black uniforms to form the centre. They were surrounded by GCHQ staff dressed in red rain ponchos and other military personnel attired in green combat dress to form the stalk.
In a year that marks the centenary of the conflict which gave birth to the poppy as a symbol of remembrance and hope, the Royal British Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as ever, supporting today’s generation of Armed Forces families and veterans.
For its part, GCHQ has a long history of supporting the military stretching back to 1914. Whenever and wherever British forces have deployed, GCHQ has been ready to assist, providing intelligence to help keep UK troops safe. Indeed, this enduring connection meant that there was no shortage of volunteers to help the Gloucestershire Legion with their efforts in the centenary year of World War I.
The completed poppy measured 38 metres in diameter with a 28 metre-long stalk. It was made up of 100 military and 1,308 civilian staff. Thanks to thorough military planning and some loud hailers, it took just over an hour to make sure everyone was position.
‘Top Secret Brass’ – GCHQ’s brass band – provided rousing music to keep the spirits up while everyone found their place. The mood was light at times: a Mexican wave was attempted but as the helicopter flew overhead to take the aerial shots, a poignant silence fell over the courtyard in a shared moment of reflection.
The event gave all involved the chance to actively show their support for the Royal British Legion and the military family.
One of the GCHQ participants who made up part of the petal described his experience. He said: “I was really proud to take part and show my support for the Royal British Legion by joining my colleagues, united in purpose, to honour those who have served – and continue to serve – this country.”
Supporting the work of The Royal British Legion
Nicole Mayall, community fundraiser for Gloucestershire’s 2014 Poppy Appeal, commented: “It’s really moving to see so many people standing together in support of The Royal British Legion’s work and to launch this year’s Poppy Appeal. We’re so grateful to all the staff at GCHQ who’ve made this possible. The money raised through the Poppy Appeal goes directly to the Legion’s welfare work, in turn providing through life care to anyone who’s currently serving in the British Armed Forces, anyone who has previously served and their families.”
Chris – a GCHQ civilian employee who had previously deployed overseas to support the military – spoke about his impressions of the day. “I’ve worked with the military in Afghanistan and seen at first-hand how GCHQ intelligence can help keep UK troops safe while they’re on operations. I’m proud to see so many people from GCHQ showing their support for the Royal British Legion and the military family.”
Participants were invited to make a donation to take part in the event and no less than £1,730 was raised.
The ponchos left over from the day will be donated to charity, namely a number of scout groups in the local area and Bloodbikes (a charity providing out of hours emergency medical courier services to Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties).
GCHQ: the detail
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies along with MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). GCHQ works to protect the UK and its citizens from a range of threats to national security, including those posed by terrorism, serious and organised crime and cyber attack.
The organisation also works to safeguard UK forces wherever they are deployed and, through its Information Security arm CESG, provides policy and assistance on the security of Government communications and electronic data.
At the heart of GCHQ’s support to the military is its staff. In recent conflicts, GCHQ staff have volunteered in numbers for deployment to war zones such that they can help keep the military safe. 90 GCHQ staff have received the medal for service in Iraq and 156 for their service in Afghanistan.
During November 2014, a number of memories and reflections of GCHQ staff who have worked to support the military – from World War I to the present day – will be shared on the GCHQ website. Check back at: http://www.gchq.gov.uk for further information from 1 November.
About The Royal British Legion
The Royal British Legion is the nation’s leading Armed Forces charity. The Legion provides immediate support and life-long care to Armed Forces families in need, spending £1.4 million each week to deliver direct, practical assistance and support to the Armed Forces community.
The Poppy Appeal 2014 introduces the Legion’s new position: ‘Live On – To the memory of the fallen and the future of the living’. This message provides a clear understanding of what The Royal British Legion does on a daily basis.
Remembrance is a hugely significant part of the Legion’s work, but the organisation also helps the living to approach their future with hope. Through the ‘Live On’ message, the Legion aims to capture the public’s imagination and reaffirm the meaning of the poppy as a symbol of both remembrance and hope.
The Royal British Legion created the Poppy Appeal to help those returning from the First World War. A century on from the start of that conflict, the organisation is still helping today’s Armed Forces families in much the same way, whether they are having to cope with bereavement, living with disability or working to find employment.
The fundraising target for the Poppy Appeal 2014 is a record £40 million (an increase on last year’s total of £39 million).