Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:23 UK

Singers launch 2009 Poppy Appeal

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Dame Vera Lynn and Hayley Westenra urged people to support the appeal

Dame Vera Lynn and soprano Hayley Westenra have launched the Royal British Legion's 2009 Poppy Appeal.

The pair held hands as they sang wartime classic We'll Meet Again to a crowd gathered at Horse Guards Parade in central London.

The 2009 appeal focuses on supporting troops wounded in Afghanistan and the families of those killed there.

For the first time the poster campaign features the image of a coffin being repatriated from the war-torn country.

'Strong appeal'

The two singers were accompanied by the Regimental Band of the Irish Guards and flanked by four troopers from the Queen's Life Guards in full state ceremonial regalia.

Dame Vera, 92, told the BBC that this year's appeal, which aims to raise £31m, has a powerful message.

She said: "We always think of the Poppy Appeal with our veterans but of course we've got so many young men who are fighting and being wounded and some, unfortunately, will not be returning home.

"So it's a very strong appeal that we have this year, not just for the veterans but for our young boys."

It's like a great weight has been lifted from us, knowing that someone can help us out
Hester Wright, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan

The Poppy Appeal posters feature service personnel wounded in Afghanistan and the families of troops killed in the conflict.

They include Lance Corporal Peter Dunning, 24, of the Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, who lost both legs when the vehicle he was travelling in drove over a mine in Helmand province in May 2008.

He is still serving, based at RNAS Yeovilton, and has received help from the Legion to assist him with essential day-to-day tasks.

Another poster features Elizabeth Cross widow Hester Wright, 22, of Mansfield, Nottingham, and her six-year-old son, Josh.

She lost her husband, Drummer Damian Wright of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2007.

Financial assistance from the Legion helped her to pay off debts and buy household goods and a school uniform for Josh.

She said: "It's been a great comfort. It's like a great weight has been lifted from us, knowing that someone can help us out.

"I'm not quite sure how we would have coped without them, to be honest."



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