Britain's longest-serving poppy seller retires aged 103

Britain's longest-serving poppy seller, a 103-year-old former World War II nurse, is retiring after 97 years collecting for the appeal.

Rosemary Powell began selling poppies at the age of six with her mother for the Royal British Legion's first Poppy Appeal in 1921.

She said she has decided to pass the baton to a new generation of fundraisers because she is "getting old".

The great-grandmother said: "I sold poppies last year, maybe not as enthusiastically as previous years, but this year will probably be my last year of selling. I'm getting old now.

"Ever since the age of six, I've been selling poppies and I remember it all so well. Collecting has kept me going all these years."

Mrs Powell grew up near where poppies were made in Richmond, west London, and said war had a "significant impact" on her life.

She lost her first fiance - who was a commander in the Royal Navy - in 1944 when the Lancaster bomber he was flying in crashed near Inverness.

Three of her uncles also died during the First World War and her father was left wounded after being shot in the head during the Battle of Somme.

Due to the loss of loved ones, the Poppy Appeal has remained an important cause to Mrs Powell.

"It's hard to imagine what they went through but my grandparents lost three of their children - with a fourth wounded - during World War One," she said.

"Right from the beginning, people talked about the Poppy Appeal. It has always been a very important cause for me.

"We did it in memory of those men who were killed, for their sacrifice."

During the Second World War, Mrs Powell trained as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse providing civilian nursing to the military.

In the 1950s, when she lived in Africa for a year, she made poppies out of paper and gave them to local people during Remembrance.

From 1975 to the mid-1990s, Mrs Powell lived in France with her Royal Navy officer husband Selwyn. There, she sold the blue cornflowers, the French equivalent to UK poppies.

When she returned to the UK, Mrs Powell resumed selling poppies in London.

Her son, Giles Powell, said he is "incredibly proud" of his mother's achievements over the years.

The Royal British Legion has also paid tribute to Mrs Powell.

Marking her retirement, the 103-year-old met former Royal Marine Nick Fleming - who had a leg injury and benefited from her fundraising efforts after being medically discharged last year.

Mr Fleming, 28, who now works for the Legion, said: "I struggle to even comprehend just how many years Rosemary has dedicated to the charity."

Emma Cannings, director of membership and volunteers at the charity, said Mrs Powell's voluntary efforts were "nothing short of phenomenal," and described her as "an incredible woman".

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