Tonbridge Poppy Appeal breaks £40,000 for the first time

Tonbridge Poppy Appeal breaks £40,000 for the first time
FLOWER POWER: Pam Mills led the centenary celebrations before stepping down

The figure stands at £42,259.70 after the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in Tonbridge School Chapel on Saturday [November 24], the last of this year’s fundraising ventures.

The campaign’s organiser, Carl Lewis, attributed the success to the centenary of the Armistice and the end of the First World War.

“I think we’ve done so well this year because of the significance of the 100th anniversary,” he said. “It’s been a time for people to reflect on their own family history.

“A lot of people have been to the battlefields in Europe, and to see the poppy display at the Imperial War Museum.”

The total has also been boosted by a number of special events held this year, such as the Tonbridge 100 weekend in August, a car show and several musical evenings.

‘It was about the community coming together, like they did 100 years ago. We have such a strong community spirit in Tonbridge’

“Remembrance can be done at different times,” said Mr Lewis. “Tonbridge 100 was a living history event, with the town forming part of a time capsule.

“It was about the community coming together, like they did 100 years ago. We have such a strong community spirit in Tonbridge.

“I’d like to thank the retailers for their fantastic window displays and all those who collected in churches and schools and in the street. It’s going to help a lot of veterans.

Mr Lewis’s wife Jenny has also broken the record for collections in Southborough, having fully taken over the appeal there for the first time.

The couple were invited to attend the Centenary of the Armistice service at Westminster Abbey in recognition of their dedicated service to the Royal British Legion.

Next year Mr Lewis says the emphasis will move from the First World War to marking the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

This commemoration of 1939 will be focused on the role of the Home Guard, the defence force assembled in readiness for a German invasion.

“Next year will be more about the home front, not just the soldiers that went to far flung places like North Africa and Burma, but rationing and air raid precautions, the work of the ambulance service – everyone had a part to play.”

Pam Mills is standing down after six years of fundraising and events planning for the appeal.

The local historian was the mastermind behind the Tonbridge 100 weekend and said she is ‘retiring on a high – I’ve loved every minute’.

She hosted a variety of musical events including this year’s Pack Up Your Troubles at EM Forster theatre and After The War at the Angel Centre.

Mrs Mills has also given talks and conducted walks around the town about topics such as soldiers’ graves and suffragists, which raised £1,000 for the Royal British Legion.

“I would like to say a massive thanks to everyone who came along throughout the year,” she said. “It’s been a brilliant year to finish on, even if I say so myself.

“I have worked with and met some great people in our community and made lots of new friends.”

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