Poppies help Ron's 'little soldier'

in July is still raw. But through her emotion, emerges an overwhelming gratitude for the Royal British Legion - and everyone who donates to its annual Poppy Appeal.

By Tracey Sparling

in July is still raw.

But through her emotion, emerges an overwhelming gratitude for the Royal British Legion - and everyone who donates to its annual Poppy Appeal.

For the Legion has helped the couple's grandson Ben, who at the age of 13, is one of it youngest beneficiaries.

Ronny completed two years' national service in his youth, and was a radio operator in the Territorial Army for nine years, including time in Germany.

In later years he suffered from angina and had a triple heart bypass a decade ago, but declined to go through the major operation again. When he died this summer of a heart attack at the age of 68, the Legion stepped in to help the family.

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“I just can't thank them enough,” said Marie, 48.

“They were brilliant. Tony Smith from the Legion came round and asked if there was anything they could do to help. I asked if it would be possible to have banners at the funeral, and they paid for the flowers too. I don't remember much of the funeral, but I know Ron would have been so proud.

“Then afterwards Tony said if there was anything else they could do, to get in touch.”

Ben has always lived with his grandparents, as his mum Samantha suffers from deafness and epilepsy. He has cerebral palsy, a speech defect, epilepsy and has poor muscle tone, so attends Beacon Hill School in Ipswich, and needed a computer to do his schoolwork on.

Almost before the family knew it, the Legion had ordered a computer, the same type as he uses at school with larger-than-average keys and a special mouse.

“We just couldn't have afforded a computer,” said Marie, as Ben plays on it at their home in Waveney Road.

“They just rang up one day and said 'when do you want it delivered!' Ben now lives for that computer - he's such a whiz at it. He works and plays on it for hours at a time.”

She added “Ben was Ron's life - every picture I have of Ron, Ben's in it. He was one in a million, the likes of him won't pass by this way again, but he will always be with us.

“He always called Ben his 'little soldier'. They both loved watching DVDs of wartime films, listening to dame Vera Lynn, and the Three Tenors. Many times I returned home from town to find wartime tunes blaring out from the house!

“Ben loves music, particularly Queen, and opera. After I took him to see Phantom of the Opera in London, we watched the film at the cinema 13 times. I think that was only beaten by Toy Story which we saw 18 times.

“Ron was such a character and he's left his mark in Ben.”

Now Ben waits in vain for Ronny to come home. He gets up two or three times a night, having nightmares, Marie said: “We've told him Ron has died, but he doesn't understand. He thinks Ron is on holiday and will be home soon.”

She recalled the day she brought their grandson home from hospital tests, which confirmed he had cerebral palsy: “Ron refused to believe it. He went in the front room and just sobbed.

“He knew what the tests said, but he always insisted Ben was normal and he treated him as such. I can see why, because if you treat somebody differently they think they are different and they stand out more.”

Marie doesn't know exactly how much money the Legion has granted her family, as they even bought Ronny a titanium plate for his false teeth in recent months.

She said: “I can't praise them enough. Until Tony came round, I didn't realise the Royal British Legion gave funding to people like Ben as well as older people. If I didn't know, there must be other people out there who don't know too.

“The younger generation does not understand what the appeal is for, or what this country went through in the Second, and First World Wars.”

Beneficiaries of the Poppy Appeal actually range from children to widows, from single mothers to pensioners. About 10.5 million people - that's one in six of the UK population - are eligible to ask for help.

Robin Hitchcock from Snape is leading this year's Suffolk side of the appeal. He said: “It's not just older people who benefit from Poppy Support. The Legion helps people of all ages, providing financial, social and emotional help to all those who have been affected by conflict.

“With British Service people on active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and in many other parts of the world, a large proportion of whom are currently under 30, the Royal British Legion's role of safeguarding the welfare and interests of serving and ex-Service people will be needed for many years to come. 85 years after the first Poppy Day was held to help soldiers returning from WWI, the cost of war remains the same.”

There has only been one year (1968) since the Second World War when a British Service person has not been killed on active duty.


Has the Royal British Legion helped you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk


For more information on the welfare fund call 08457 725725 at local rates.




1p from every Evening Star sold on Saturday, will be donated to the Poppy Appeal.

Four million ex-service people have a long-term illness or disability.

180,000 ex-service men and women are never visited by a friend or relative.

927,000 ex-service people live on an annual household income of £5,000 or less.

More than 12,000 British Service men and women have been killed or injured on active service since 1945 in conflicts up to the present day, including Bosnia, the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last year the county raised £451,000, an increase of £24,000 from 2004, and this year 3,000 collectors have offering the famous poppy for sale at railway stations, shop doorways and in the street.

Wear a poppy and make a donation to the Poppy Appeal.

By telephone - call freephone 0845 845 1945.

By text - text the word Poppy to 85099.

Online - visit the Poppy Appeal website at www.poppy.org.

In person - the Legion has thousands of street collectors and many shops, pubs and businesses have Legion collecting boxes on their premises too.

By post - send a cheque made payable to The Royal British Legion to, The Royal British Legion, FREEPOST NAT4833, Halifax Road, Bowerhill, Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12 6BR.

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