Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 18:18 UK

Poppy Appeal launched from Basra


Soldiers and 'Poppy Man' launch the Poppy Appeal in Basra

This year's Poppy Appeal has been launched in Iraq, the first time the campaign has been launched from an active war zone.

The Royal British Legion said the choice was a reminder that it helped active personnel as well as veterans.

Spokesman Robert Lee said UK troops had been on active service somewhere in the world every year since 1945, with some 16,500 lives lost.

The launch in Basra was accompanied by songs from the soprano Hayley Westenra.

The Poppy Appeal raises funds for the Royal British Legion, which provides support to serving members of the Armed Forces, the ex-service community and their dependents.

'Poppy Man'

Mr Lee told the BBC: "Every single one of these veterans is eligible for legion support and every single person in uniform today is eligible for our support."

Speaking from Basra, Sgt Kevin McAloon of the Adjutant General's Corps told the BBC: "It just shows the nation how big the Poppy Appeal actually is for both serving and ex-serving members of the forces.

Chris Simpkins, Director General The Royal British Legion with a British soldier
"Poppy Man" has toured operational stations in Iraq

"There are many ex-servicemen or current servicemen who have used the British Legion to assist them after injury in combat."

This year's appeal is accompanied by "Poppy Man" - a life-size figure constructed from scores of poppies - that has toured operating stations in Iraq.

The appeal's posters feature the figure pushing the wheelchair of an injured serviceman and putting his arms around a boy whose father was killed in Iraq.

Poppies became a symbol of remembrance because they grew in ground devastated by trench warfare in World War I.

BBC newsreaders will begin wearing poppies from the weekend.

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