GCHQ wears its poppy with pride
News article - 24 Oct 2014
Whenever and wherever British forces have deployed, GCHQ has been ready to assist, providing intelligence to help to keep UK troops safe. Sometimes this involves our staff deploying to warzones to help support the military. 90 GCHQ staff have received the medal for service in Iraq, 156 for service in Afghanistan.
In the year of the WWI Centenary, the Royal British Legion Gloucestershire wanted a really special photograph to help launch their poppy campaign. They approached us to ask for help in creating an iconic image. Given our strong links with the armed forces, we were delighted to accept the challenge.
On the 1st October, the poppy, representing Remembrance of the past and hope for the future, was created within GCHQ’s central courtyard using Royal Navy personnel wearing black uniforms to form the centre. They were surrounded by GCHQ staff in red rain ponchos and other military personnel in green combat dress to form the stalk. The completed poppy measured 38 meters in diameter with a 28 meter long stalk. It was made up of 100 military and 1308 civilian staff.
As you can imagine, this needed to be planned like a military operation. Luckily for us, we had a contingent of forces personnel who were happy to lend a hand, and a loud voice, to ensure everyone stood where they were supposed to. It took just over an hour to get everyone into position but you can watch the whole thing take shape in just over 2 minutes on our YouTube clip.
GCHQ’s brass band, ‘Top Secret Brass’ provided rousing music to keep spirits up whilst everyone got into place. The mood was light at times, a Mexican wave was attempted but as the helicopter flew overhead to take the aerial shots, a poignant silence fell over the courtyard in a shared moment of reflection. The event gave all involved the chance to actively show their support to the Legion and military family.
Participants were invited to make a donation to take part, £1730 was raised. The ponchos left over will be donated to local charities including a number of scout groups in the local area and Bloodbikes, a charity providing out of hours emergency medical courier service to Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties.
The Royal British Legion Gloucestershire was thrilled with the result. Nicole Mayall, Community Fundraiser for Gloucestershire’s Poppy Appeal said: "It is so moving to see so many people standing together to support the work of The Royal British Legion and launch this year’s Poppy Appeal. We are so grateful to all the staff at GCHQ who have made this possible. The money raised through the Poppy Appeal goes directly to the Legion’s welfare work providing through life care to anyone who is currently serving in the British Armed Forces, who has previously served, and their families".
One of the GCHQ participants who made up part of the petal described his experience. He said: "I was really proud to take part and show my support for the Royal British Legion by coming together with my colleagues, united in purpose, to honour those who have served and continue to serve this country."
Please help The Legion by joining GCHQ in supporting Britain’s forces and their families and wearing your poppy with pride.
Over November, to mark GCHQ’s enduring relationship with the military, we will be publishing a variety of memories of those staff who have served with the military, some from our archives and some from current staff. Check back for regular updates and an insight into the work we have done in support of the military over the decades.
Royal British Legion
The Legion is here to help – if you are a member of the Armed Forces in need please get in touch with our contact centre on 0808 802 8080.