Andrew Hough, Telegraph (London), October 21, 2012
Poppy sellers will receive protection from Royal British Legion “minders” for the first time after a spate of attacks last year in which volunteers were verbally abused and spat on.
The unprecedented security will be provided for young Army cadets in Bradford, West Yorks, after the attacks on teenage collectors.
The security chaperones will accompany the volunteers, aged between 10 and 17, amid concerns many are now too frightened to participate in fund-raising efforts.
From this week they will be shadowed by motor enthusiasts from the Legion’s Riders branch, many of whom are former members of the Armed Forces, following the series of incidents last year.
Those attacks left the local Legion branch horrified and forced Army officials to visit schools to stress the need to honour the fallen and overcome cultural barriers.
In one incident, a 13 year-old Army cadet, Bethany Holmes, was spat at three times by a group of younger Asian boys while collecting for the first time.
Yobs also hurled abuse at two Asian girl cadets and two other sellers were sworn at in the city centre while one young poppy seller also had her tin grabbed from her shoulder.
“It [security] is something we need and it’s ideal because it would keep the cadets safe,” Barbara Allsopp, the Bradford RBL Poppy Appeal organiser, said last night.
The Riders is a branch of the British legion established in 2004, in which members include ex-forces motorcyclist ethusiasts, who offer support to the poppy appeal.
Rod Walker, a spokesman for the Riders West Yorkshire, added: “After what happened last year we thought our job should be to support the branches.
“You have to remember the cadets who are affected by this are very impressionable and in some cases they will turn out to be our future Armed Forces.
“We have to educate the public why we are doing these collections.”
On Friday, Bradford will host the launch of the West Yorkshire-wide Poppy Appeal for the first time in nine years. Last year volunteers raised more than £60,000 from collections.
Dale Smith, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, said it was “very important the younger generation are continually reminded” of the importance of commemorating the fallen.
“It is a sad reflection that this small minority did abuse some of the younger collectors last year,” he said.
“I welcome that the motorcycle section will be keeping a watchful eye — but hope their services will not be needed.”