News Article

GCHQ helps launch RBL Gloucestershire Poppy Appeal 2016

Last Updated: 24 Jan 2017
We have raised over £19,500 for the Royal British Legion Gloucestershire with our giant poppy waterfall and other activities throughout 2016. Huge thanks to everyone involved for their fantastic support.


Choir singing while poppy petals fall like snow from above; GCHQ crest and poppy waterfall behind
©GCHQ 2016

News article - 28 Oct 2016


Interesting spiral-knit poppy, red with black wool centre

Our project to help launch the Royal British Legion Gloucestershire County Poppy Appeal 2016 began in late summer.  Together with the RBL Gloucestershire we hatched a plan to create a visual representation of our support for the military and the RBL with a giant waterfall of poppies inside our Cheltenham headquarters.  The poppy is a universal symbol of Remembrance and hope, so it was fitting we used it as our inspiration.

The fundraising target in Gloucestershire is £660,000, which will go towards the Legion’s national target of £43 million to continue its vital work delivering practical, through life care and support to the Armed Forces community.  


Woollen poppy with black petals and red centre

As an intelligence agency, we are not used to creating art.  But at our heart, we are problem solvers and so we turned our minds to this new challenge.  Our mathematicians came in handy for working out the number of poppies needed to cover the area and our engineers designed and built the waterfall structure.  


Poppy made from satin-style material with wooden button in the centre

The call went out to our staff to show their support by making a poppy.  As well as crafting at home, they picked up knitting needles or crochet hooks at lunch times or came together to use the poppy project as a team building experience.  Colleagues at sites across the country and partners overseas helped too.  The community also got involved, with local schools, village ‘stitch and bitch’ groups and a number of local WI branches sending poppy donations.  There was no rest even whilst on holiday - 151 poppies were knitted by a member of staff whilst cruising on the Queen Mary 2!   Even our Director, Robert Hannigan, did his bit and sewed a poppy onto the waterfall.


Multi-coloured wool used for the poppy petals, with a black centre

The poppies GCHQ created were as diverse as the staff who sewed, knitted or crocheted them. They included black poppy roses from GCHQ’s BAME network and rainbow poppies from Pride.  As technology is a big part of GCHQ, specially designed 3D printed poppies were added.  


Over 9,000 handmade woollen and fabric poppies were used to create the waterfall. It measured more than 10 metres and covered an area of approximately 30 square metres.  It weighed around 40kg and took in excess of 300hrs to sew together.  The display provided the backdrop at a launch event attended by staff, local dignitaries and dedicated RBL supporters, with music from the Innsworth Military Wives’ Choir. 


The 3D printing method causes linear texture patterns that enhance the petal shapes

As part of its mission to keep Britain safe, GCHQ has a long history of supporting the military, stretching back to 1914.  Wherever and whenever British forces have deployed, GCHQ has been ready to assist, providing intelligence to keep troops safe.  This sometimes involves deploying staff to warzones, and over 200 members of GCHQ have received a campaign medal for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.  


Satiny waterproof material forms the poppy petals, with a black plastic centre

This is not the first collaboration between GCHQ and the Legion.  In 2014 the Gloucestershire Poppy Appeal was launched with a giant poppy made from 1,300 GCHQ staff.  And going full circle, one of the red ponchos worn at that event was recycled to make new poppies included in the waterfall.

The top section of our waterfall has been carefully removed and is on public display at Gloucester Cathedral throughout November, alongside thousands of poppies crafted by members of the Women’s Institute.


Red felt poppy with black centre button, with overstitching and beading

We’re wearing 9,000 poppies to show our support, join us in wearing your poppy with pride for this year’s Poppy Appeal.



The huge poppy waterfall flows down the side of the wall next to the stone-carved GCHQ Crest
©GCHQ 2016