Birkenhead Royal British Legion breaks own Poppy appeal record

THE world’s first Royal British Legion smashed its own Poppy Appeal record for the second time running – just two years after coming close to extinction.

The Birkenhead branch of the charitable organisation, which cares for ex-servicemen and their dependents, delivered an astonishing £53,000 return from just two weeks of collecting in 2009.

That was a 25% increase on all previous efforts – but now the team of 30 volunteers have bettered even that.

Newly-released figures showed between October 28 and November 11 – the only fortnight volunteers were allowed to collect – an incredible £58,000 was donated by residents of the branch’s two patches, Birkenhead and West Kirby.

It was another 10% rise managed despite the ongoing recession.

Tanya Cawood, chairman of the Park Road East-based Legion, said: “We did not even think we would reach the record last year, so to do it again this year was an extra bonus.

“As we were counting and banking the money, the total kept coming up.

“We all looked at each other and said ‘this has already beaten last year’s total’.

Opened in 1921 by Sir Frederick Lister, the Birkenhead branch faced closure in October 2008 as the number of volunteers dried up, and its grand seven-storey building faced mounting maintenance bills.

Mrs Cawood, who put herself forward as chairman soon after, said: “It would have been a real shame to close it down, because it was where it all started.”

With many members of the regional Mercian Regiment hailing from the town, Birkenhead residents’ generosity has continued and the building has just gone through a major refurbishment programme which should see it thrive for decades to come.

Mrs Cawood said: “The branch was in a derelict state, but we had the windows double-glazed, the roof repaired and the kitchen replaced, plus decorating on all levels, the floors sanded down and the alarm system repaired.

Mrs Cawood said: “Words cannot say how grateful we are because without the money they give every Poppy Appeal, we could not carry on doing our work.”