UK

Poppy Appeal opens with all-day Cenotaph vigil

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Media captionJoss Stone explains why she took part in a vigil at the Cenotaph for this year's Poppy Appeal

A vigil running from sunrise to sunset has opened this year's Poppy Appeal at the Cenotaph.

A century on from the outbreak of World War One, the British Legion is calling for a focus on the "future of the living" and the "memory of the fallen".

The event was inspired by images from the repatriation of the Unknown Warrior in 1920, when guards kept vigil by the coffin from France to England.

Singer Joss Stone took part in the first watch shortly after 07:00 BST.

"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," she said.

"It's important for younger people to realise this because we haven't seen [war]."

Beneficiaries of the Royal British Legion (RBL), its staff and ambassadors are being joined by members of the public and armed forces personnel taking part in the watch on Thursday.

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Image caption The soul singer arrived with a photo of her great-great-grandfather Private Alfred Ernest Stenning
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Image caption David Cameron bought a poppy outside Number 10 to mark this year's appeal

Brit Award winner Stone - who teamed up with guitarist Jeff Beck to record this year's Poppy Appeal single - was joined by 29-year-old ex-Royal Marine Commando Pete Dunning, who lost both legs fighting in Afghanistan.

Mr Dunning, 29, from Wallasey, 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."

'The Watch is different'

More than 80 people are expected to take part throughout the day, spread across 21 watch shifts until the sun sets on Thursday.

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Image caption Clive Smith, who was injured in Afghanistan, stands on watch for the Poppy Appeal
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Image caption L/Cpl Donna White stands on watch at the Cenotaph

The Poppy Appeal is the British Legion's biggest fund-raising campaign and in around two weeks' time 45m poppies will have been distributed with the aim of raising £40m.

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Image caption A watch was kept over the Unknown Warrior's coffin as it was repatriated in 1920

Director of fundraising Charles Byrne said: "Every year the Legion organises the annual Remembrance Sunday march past the Cenotaph.

"The Watch is different. The Watch gives individual civilians, serving personnel and veterans the opportunity to remember a loved one, celebrate a family member who is serving or has served or to simply show their respect and support for our brave armed forces community."

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Image caption The Queen visited the Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London

The Queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh recently visited a World War One art installation of thousands of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London.

By Armistice Day, which commemorates the formal end of hostilities on 11 November 1918, there will be 888,246 of the flowers outside the Tower of London.

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