This year marks the centenary of the forming of the Royal British Legion. Founded on May 15, 1921 RBL is best known for the Poppy Appeal and, in Thornbury, organising it is the responsibility of Rick and Val Laing.

Rick grew up in Middlesbrough in a military family – his father was in the RAF working on Mosquitos at the end of the war. As an Army cadet Rick always wanted to be a soldier and joined the Army straight from school at age 16.

He entered military service via the Junior Leaders Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps, where he was trained as a chieftain and scorpion crewman, and a few years later he was promoted to Troop leader.

His regiment was initially the 15th/19th The Kings Royal Hussars, later becoming the Light Dragoons, and during his 20 year career he served in N.Ireland, Germany, Cyprus, Norway and Canada.

Gazette Series:

Val grew up in Norfolk and also came from a service family. Her father served in the Army and her mother was in the Women’s Land Army. Val joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps after school and college and trained to be a nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, London.

Following initial training Val worked at the Royal Hospital Chelsea with Chelsea Pensioners and then finished her training at the British Military Hospital in Hanover, Germany. She was then posted to Chessington Rehabilitation Centre to continue her career.

Rick and Val met and married whilst both serving in the Army and after finishing their military service settled in Thornbury. Rick now has a successful career as a tutor at a local prison. Val is still involved in the medical world and is a receptionist for a local GP practice.

Rick and Val’s first association with RBL was in 2005 with the Riders’ branch. This is the motorcycle branch of RBL and members throughout UK attend rallies and other events to raise money for the Poppy Appeal. After joining the Thornbury branch they agreed to jointly take on the job of Poppy Appeal organisers when the vacancy arose.

The role of Poppy Appeal Organiser is a year-round job taking several hours each month. Poppies, wreaths, crosses and badges are ordered in June and the lengthier tasks start in September. Local collectors in Thornbury are recruited and their essential support is very much appreciated during the fortnight collection period leading up to Remembrance Sunday. At the end of October boxes of poppies and donation tins are collated and delivered to shops, schools and workplaces, and collected again after Remembrance weekend. The donations are then counted under secure conditions and rigorously double checked by a team of Legion members before being banked.

The Poppy Appeal team said: “Thanks to the wonderful generosity of the people of Thornbury £17,082 was collected locally last year. This money helps to support veterans young and old in their times of need.

"We are also very grateful to the local volunteers who come forward and give some of their time in November to help with the poppy collections in Thornbury. Their support is vital to us.”

If you would like to volunteer to help with the Poppy Appeal, email at or call 07712 897525. Anybody can join the Royal British Legion, you don’t have to have been in the armed forces to become a member. The Thornbury branch meets in The Black Horse on Gillingstool at 12 noon on the last Sunday of the month.