To launch this year’s Royal British Legion Gloucestershire County Poppy Appeal, around 1400 GCHQ staff, both civilian and military, worked together to create a giant poppy in the centre of the iconic GCHQ ‘doughnut’ building in Cheltenham.
The poppy, representing Remembrance of the past and hope for the future, was created using Royal Navy personnel wearing black uniforms to form the centre. They were surrounded by GCHQ staff in red rain ponchos and other military personnel 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 Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as ever, supporting today’s generation of Armed Forces families and veterans.
The completed poppy measured 38 meters in diameter with a 28 meter long stalk. It was made up of 100 military and 1308 civilian staff. Thanks to military planning and some loud hailers, it took just over an hour to get everyone into position.
GCHQ’s brass band, ‘Top Secret Brass’ provided rousing music to keep spirits up whilst everyone got into 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 to the Legion and 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 coming together with my colleagues, united in purpose, to honour those who have served and continue to serve this country”.
Nicole Mayall, Community Fundraiser for Gloucestershire’s Poppy Appeal said: “It is so moving to see so many people standing together to support the work of The Royal British Legion and launch this year’s Poppy Appeal. We are so grateful to all the staff at GCHQ who have made this possible. The money raised through the Poppy Appeal goes directly to the Legion’s welfare work providing through life care to anyone who is currently serving in the British Armed Forces, 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, he said: “I’ve worked with the military in Afghanistan and seen first-hand how GCHQ intelligence can help keep UK troops safe whilst on operation. I’m proud to see so many from GCHQ come together today to show their support for the Royal British Legion and the military family”.
The ponchos left over will be donated to local charities namely a number of scout groups in the local area and Bloodbikes, a charity providing out of hours emergency medical courier service to Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties.