Image ID CWRDAX Poppy factory entrance and sign at Richmond upon Thames Surrey London UK 010912 CREDIT Julian Eales, Alamy Stock Photo
The Poppy Factory, based in Richmond-upon-Thames, was established in the aftermath of the First World War (Picture: Julian Eales/Alamy Stock Photo).
Forces Charities

Poppy Factory celebrates 100 years as veteran praises it for giving him purpose

A veteran who works at the West London factory said: "Without this place... I don't know where I'd be now."

Image ID CWRDAX Poppy factory entrance and sign at Richmond upon Thames Surrey London UK 010912 CREDIT Julian Eales, Alamy Stock Photo
The Poppy Factory, based in Richmond-upon-Thames, was established in the aftermath of the First World War (Picture: Julian Eales/Alamy Stock Photo).

A military veteran who was suicidal has praised the Poppy Factory, which is celebrating its centenary year, for helping to give him a purpose in life.

The charity, established in the aftermath of the First World War, has grown into a national organisation, providing support for ex-service personnel with health conditions to get into employment.

Stephen Pleasants began volunteering with the charity after suffering a breakdown. He is now a production worker at the West London factory, where he makes wreaths, helps in the warehouse and works on reception. 

The former RAF man, who completed two tours of Belize and Ascension Island in the 1980s during a six-year career, described the factory as a "safe space" for people.

He said: "I had a major breakdown about seven years ago, so it took me a long time to rebuild my life, and the Poppy Factory has really helped with that."

"I was suicidal," Mr Pleasants said, and he "ended up in a psychiatric hospital for a couple of weeks and then did a lot of therapy".

He said it had been suggested to him to get involved with the Poppy Factory and it was there he found a "purpose".

"I think having a purpose in your day, a purpose in life, is so helpful," he said.

The veteran added: "It's actually my life. It really is. I mean without this place, as I said, I don't know where I'd be now.

"And it's really good, I've learned a lot, learned a lot about myself since I've been here."

Image ID AJX8GJ Workers at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in Richmond Surrey 071107 CREDIT Roger Bamber  Alamy Stock Photo
Workers at the Poppy Factory in 2007 (Picture: Roger Bamber/Alamy Stock Photo).

Deirdre Mills, the Poppy Factory's chief executive, said there will be different events happening over the coming months to celebrate the charity's 100 years in existence.

She said: "We are celebrating in all sorts of ways.

"The first way would be to remember our past and our history.

"And, of course, we were set up in 1922 to remember wounded, injured and sick veterans from the First World War but we're also celebrating our more modern mission, which is to help wounded, injured and sick veterans into employment all across the country, and in all sorts of ways whether that be in partnership with the NHS, whether that be in a community environment, or working with Government organisations such as the Department for Work and Pensions, or whether it's in small community environments, such as cafes, and the like."

She said she hopes to "work again with the Royal Family throughout this, our centenary year", praising the charity's patron, the Duchess of Cornwall, for "the interest and the engagement that she shows".

Ms Mills said she is "delighted" the factory has re-opened following shutdowns during the pandemic and encouraged the public to "book on the website, come on through the doors, and see for yourself what is going on here and the wonderful work of the charity".

People can book a visit and see how veterans make royal and regimental wreaths by hand, as well as having the chance to make their own poppy.