MUSICIAN Joss Stone has pledged her support for this year’s poppy appeal by joining soldiers at the Cenotaph in central London to mark the start of the Royal British Legion’s annual fundraising campaign.
The soul singer was among the first to take part in the vigil, alongside former Royal Marine Commando Pete Dunning. He lost both legs on active service in Afghanistan in 2008 when a landmine exploded. The bomb destroyed the armoured vehicle in which he was travelling, killing one soldier.
The watch was inspired by images of the repatriation of the Unknown Soldier in 1920, when guards kept a vigil at the coffin as a mark of respect.
Speaking at the start of her watch at the Cenotaph, Stone, 27, said: “There isn’t one war that is more horrific than another. These men are incredibly brave and a lot of them have laid down their lives so that we can live in a peaceful environment. It’s important for younger people to realise this because we haven’t seen it [war].
“I’m a couple years off of 30 and I’ve never seen war. Hopefully, my children will never see war in our homes. The important thing – is it to remember or is it to be educated by it?”
The singer was one of several supporters, including military personnel, to take turns on shift in the sunrise-to-sunset event. It comes in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War.
Stone has teamed up with the veteran rock guitarist Jeff Beck to record this year’s official charity single, No Man’s Land (Green Fields of France).
During her time at the Cenotaph Stone clutched a photograph of her great-great-grandfather Private Alfred Ernest Stenning.
She said: “After singing the song No Man’s Land, everything that I thought got bigger and bigger. The lyrics in it, the song speaks of ‘do you have a wife, or a sweetheart?’ That really got me. It brings it closer to home.”
It is estimated around 45 million poppies will be distributed by the Royal British Legion (RBL) and its supporters in this year’s campaign.
Mr Dunning, 29, from Wallasey in Merseyside, said: “I’m honoured to be a part of this historic event.
“The RBL is the nation’s custodian of remembrance and this is a great way for anyone, whether they have served or not, to remember a loved one and celebrate our armed forces.
“The support that the Legion has offered me since my accident has been great. They are helping me to live my life as best I can by making my day-to-day living easier.”
Cadet Kamil Cesarz, 18, from Ealing, west London, who stood at the memorial, said: “Being asked to take part in the watch is especially important to me. To be asked to represent ‘the future’ of the armed forces makes me extremely proud.”