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'Longest serving' poppy seller to retire after 97 years

Rosemary Powell Image copyright Royal British Legion
Image caption Rosemary Powell is thought to be Britain's longest serving, and oldest, poppy seller

A former World War Two nurse is to retire from selling poppies after 97 years of collecting for the appeal.

Rosemary Powell, 103, first helped her mother sell poppies on Richmond Bridge at the age of six for the first Poppy Appeal in 1921.

The great-grandmother, from London, said collecting had "kept me going all these years" but she was "getting old".

The Royal British Legion said Mrs Powell's efforts had been "nothing short of phenomenal".

She is thought to be Britain's longest serving, and oldest, poppy seller.

Image copyright PA/Royal British Legion
Image caption Mrs Powell lived close to where poppies were made in 1921 and sold them on Richmond Bridge

For the 1921 Poppy Appeal, Mrs Powell said her mother Evelyn had to buy red crepe paper to make her own poppies after they quickly sold out of the originals.

"She made these very simple little poppies and we soon sold out again. It was the very first one so it really caught the public's attention," she said.


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The 103-year-old said war "has had a significant impact on my life".

Her father Charles Ashton James was left wounded after being shot in the head during the Battle of the Somme, and she lost two godfathers and three uncles during World War One.

Mrs Powell's first fiance Robin Ellis, who was a commander in the Royal Navy, died in 1944 when the Lancaster bomber he was flying in crashed.

She also lost her younger brother Peter, a major in the Army, during World War Two.

Image copyright PA/Royal British Legion
Image caption During World War Two, Mrs Powell trained as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse

During the conflict Mrs Powell trained as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse providing civilian nursing to the military.

In later years she spent time living abroad but she continued to fundraise.

She made poppies out of paper for Remembrance Day while living in Africa, and sold the French equivalent of poppies, blue cornflowers, while living with her husband in France.

She said the appeal had "always been a very important cause for me. We did it in memory of those men who were killed, for their sacrifice".

Emma Cannings, director of membership and volunteers at Royal British Legion, said the charity was "incredibly thankful for her support over the generations."

Image copyright PA/Royal British Legion
Image caption Rosemary Powell sold blue cornflowers of remembrance while she lived with her husband Selwyn in France

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