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BGF’s Head of Operations: What Remembrance Day means to me

BGF's Russell Perman and Leigh Edgar manning a poppy appeal booth in uniform for Remembrance 2023

As our Head of Operations, Leigh Edgar is responsible for the business support operations across all of BGF’s offices in the UK and Ireland. Here, Leigh shares his connection to Remembrance Day, and how you can show support this November. 

I served in The Royal Navy for 10 years, between the ages of 16 and 26. During this time, I worked with The Army and Royal Marines in multiple operational and service roles.

As a Naval Airman, my job was operational support at sea and land for both fixed wing and helicopter activities. In addition to my day job, I was also a trained diver that supported maintenance and rescue requirements. Throughout my years in The Royal Navy, I served in the Gulf War, former Yugoslavia and Northen Ireland, sadly losing several friends along the way.

This time of year, in the lead up to 11 November (Remembrance Day), is special for most service members and their families. Personally, I feel humbled when out selling poppies to the public and people come up to thank me for my service, despite not knowing me or my story. My service was eventful, sad and exciting at times, and usually mundane.

What is Remembrance?

Remembrance honours those who serve to defend our democratic freedoms and way of life. Remembrance does not glorify war. Its symbol, the red poppy, is a sign of both Remembrance and of hope for a peaceful future.

We unite across faiths, cultures and backgrounds to remember the service and sacrifice of the Armed Forces community across the UK and the Commonwealth. We will remember them. We pay tribute to the special contribution of families and of the emergency services. We acknowledge innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism.

The red poppy

Poppies are often worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces community. The poppy is a well-known symbol that carries a wealth of history and meaning with it.

During WWI, much of the conflict took place in Western Europe, with the countryside there being fought over repeatedly. Once beautiful landscapes turned to mud—bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow. But there was a notable and striking exception to the bleakness: the bright red Flanders poppies. These resilient flowers flourished in the middle of the chaos and destruction, growing in the thousands.

In 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, was moved by the sight of these poppies after losing a friend in Ypres. This led him to write the now famous poem In Flanders Fields, which inspired American War Secretary Moina Michael to sell poppies to her friends, raising money for servicemen in need after the war.

The idea was later adopted by The British Legion who, on 11 November 1921, sold millions of poppies in the first ever Poppy Appeal. And the poppy has been a symbol of Remembrance ever since.

Today, wearing a poppy is a very personal choice, reflecting individual experiences and personal memories. Some people choose to wear one in November, before Remembrance Sunday; whilst never compulsory, this is greatly appreciated by those it’s intended to support.

How else to show support

Remembrance unites people of all faiths, cultures, and backgrounds, but it is also deeply personal. Alternative ways to show support to the Armed Forces include joining with others in your community on a commemorative anniversary or taking a moment on your own to pause and reflect. Everyone is free to remember in their own way, or to choose not to remember at all.

There are also lots of TV programmes, podcasts and books out there that provide insights of selection, training or action of the Armed Forces. My personal recommendation would be ‘Letters from the front line’. I’d suggest reading it if you want to better understand, from an individual’s perspective, the impact on families, mental health and lost loves.

BGF Insights 11.08.2023
Tags BGF teams

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