Banbury soldier returns to salute fallen heroes

This year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal will launch later this week, with a familiar figure leading the tributes in Banbury.

Published: Tuesday, 22nd October 2019

Following the positive response to the floral soldier, displayed on The Cross for last year’s WW1 commemorations, the wire figure has been brushed down and re-painted by Cherwell District Council, ready to serve again for 2019.

The frame will stand on the Link Bridge at the Banbury Museum in Castle Quay from Saturday 26 October. Members of the public will be invited to buy special ‘altar’ poppies, with long, wire stems, and attach them to the soldier as a sign of remembrance and respect. A book of remembrance will also be opened at the museum allowing people to leave their own, personal tributes.

Councillor Dan Sames, Cherwell’s lead member for clean and green, will tie the first poppy onto the soldier at an event at the Banbury Museum this Saturday (26 October) at 12 noon. Cllr Sames said: “It is a great honour to be invited to lead the community in this act of remembrance. Remembering those who have fallen in the service of our country, in all conflicts, is something we must continue to do. It’s always an act that the community gets behind and I think the soldier will be adorned with poppies in no time, showing how much value ;we place on their sacrifice.”

Cllr Sames will be joined by representatives from Banbury’s Royal British Legion, including chairman Chris Smithson and their president and leader of Banbury Town Council, Councillor Kieron Mallon.

Cllr Mallon said: “The wire soldier forms an important part of this year’s remembrance commemorations for Banbury. It gives residents a focal point to offer their individual thanks whilst combining to show the respect the town has for our armed forces. As we get closer to Remembrance Sunday, we will see the soldier become adorned with hundreds of poppies, reflecting how the town feels towards our fallen heroes.”

Mr Smithson said: “As the Banbury Poppy Appeal organiser, I would like to personally thank all those who donated last year, raising an amazing £76,500. We look forward to collecting even more money this year.”

The altar poppies are fully recyclable and can be purchased from a variety of locations across Banbury, including Bodicote House; Banbury Museum; Banbury Town Hall; Sainsbury’s; Morrisons; Tesco and Waitrose.

A donation of £1 is requested to purchase a poppy, with all funds raised during the appeal going directly to the Royal British Legion to help former service men and women across the country. Two hundred poppies will be added to the soldier following a joint donation from Cherwell District Council and Banbury Town Council.

The soldier was originally designed by Wroxton blacksmith, Lionel Gibbs, in the shape of a fireman to stand outside Banbury Fire Station. But last year, the frame was adapted with a resting gun added, designed by Oxfordshire craftsman, Nick Vinden.

The figure will stand on the Link Bridge at the Banbury Museum until Saturday 9 November when he will be carefully removed and returned to his previous posting on The Cross, complete with poppies. The book of remembrance will be taken to Banbury Town Hall to be present during the Town Council’s Poppy Day Parade on Sunday 10 November.