THEY’RE the unsung Poppy Army committed to supporting our war heroes.

And this weekend they’ll again be out in force with their collection tins to mark Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

In 2016/2017 a record £626,732.27 was raised across the county and organisers are hoping a new record will again be achieved this year.

So if you see the likes of 85-year-old Witney stalwart Daphne Smith, who has been collecting for the Royal British Legion for 50 years, please dig deep into your pockets and wear those poppies with pride.

Witney Gazette:

YEAR in, year out they brave the wind and rain to shake a collecting tin for the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal.

At the heart of the RBL's fundraising campaign are collectors who return every autumn to stand outside shops and knock on doors to sell their poppies.

But a new generation of young collectors is urgently required to replace the pensioners who are becoming too frail to serve the cause.

RBL county chairman Lynda Atkins said: "Collectors across the county are the backbone of our appeal and some of them have been doing it for so long that I am totally in awe of them."

Daphne Smith, 85, who lives on the Cogges estate in Witney, has been selling poppies for the RBL for 50 years.

Witney Gazette:

She started out when she was 'volunteered' by her late husband Clive Smith, as he had been an airman at RAF Bicester.

He died aged 85 a decade ago but Mrs Smith has carried on collecting.

After shaking a poppy tin earlier this week, outside the Corn Exchange in Witney, she said: "This is my 50th year so I think it could be time for me to call it a day and for someone a bit younger to take my place.

"But when I see those poppy tins I just want to get involved so I wouldn't rule out coming back next year.

"I do this for all the servicemen and women who have died in past conflicts and their families - perhaps those who have been injured in places like Afghanistan.

"But it is also to support people serving in the Armed Forces now.

"The Poppy Appeal supports them and their families so it's vital we keep this going."

Mrs Smith said one of her usual collection points was outside the Co-op in Witney High Street.

"People stop and have a little chat each year and it's a great way for us to catch up," she said.

"I have met some lovely people over the years - mums, dads and their kids and it will be sad for me to give it up.

"Last year when I was stood out in the High Street a lass from a shop across the road bought me a cup of coffee - everyone is very friendly."

When Mrs Smith's daughter Suzanne, 52, was a toddler Mrs Smith would take her out in the pushchair as she knocked on doors to sell poppies.

But in recent years she has found door-to-door sales harder to manage.

She added: "I have fallen over people's pot plants once or twice so I don't go door-to-door so much these days.

"Fifty years is a long time to be selling poppies but it has been worth it - I have met some smashing people."

- For the past 40 years Veronica Strange has been spreading the word around Witney about the work of the Royal British Legion.

Witney Gazette:

Mum-of-two Mrs Strange, 71, who lives with husband Percy Strange, off Burford Road, is continuing a long-standing family tradition of selling poppies for the RBL.

Her father Arthur Larner, who worked for the Oxford Mail for 52 years, distributed poppies to schools in the town.

Now grandmother-of-three Mrs Strange and her husband Percy do the same so that pupils are reminded of the dedication and sacrifice of those who died in past conflicts and that current servicemen and their families need support.

Mrs Strange, who worked in banking, said: "It's a long job visiting all the schools but we enjoy it and the children find it fun too.

"We also sell poppies in the Ducklington Lane area and it's an annual chance to catch up with people we haven't seen for a while.

"We love doing community work and I am also a volunteer for Witney Community Hospital but it does bother me that a lot of the collectors for the RBL are folk of my own age.

"We are worried that the next generation of collectors will not be there to take over - there may be some roads in Witney that don't have collectors and we definitely need more.

"We go out in all weathers to sell poppies and as long as we keep well we shall keep on doing it.

"We need to support all the veterans and servicemen who need the help of the RBL - we know Daphne Smith - she is an absolute stalwart."

Mr and Mrs Strange visit 14 schools to distribute poppies for sale and other items provided by the RBL.

Mrs Strange is a a former pupil of Wood Green School.

- Grandfather Bob Strachan has Parkinson's Disease but that does not stop him collecting for the Poppy Appeal.

Witney Gazette:

Mr Strachan, 79, who was based at RAF Abingdon, has been selling poppies in the town's Bury Street precinct.

After suffering the condition for three years Mr Strachan sometimes finds it hard to balance so he can not stand up for too long.

The veteran, who served in Kenya, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Germany and Northern Ireland, worked as a bulldog for Oxford University after leaving the RAF.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-two, who lives in the town with wife Marjorie, 80, retired from the RAF as a Corporal in 1990.

He said: "I came to Abingdon in 1977 and I'm a member of the RBL in Spring Road.

"I can't do the parades like I used to because I have problems balancing - every now and then I have to cling onto something.

"Luckily there are plenty of pillars outside Wildwood Kitchen for me to lean up against.

"I'm very pleased to be one of the RBL's collectors and will do this for as long as I can.

"The town once had an RAF station and now has an Army base so people want to support the Poppy Appeal - people have been very generous with some putting notes in the box."

Mr Strachan added: "I'm a new boy round here because I have only been doing this for three years but I'm happy to help."

- Young cadets from across Oxfordshire pounded the pavements of Bonn Square in Oxford to sell poppies ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Witney Gazette:

Poppy Appeal collectors Priyanka Gandhi, 17, and Gabriella Britt, 15, both from 2210 (Cowley) Squadron, Royal Air Force Air Cadets. Picture Dave Fleming

Youngsters from Cowley, Banbury, Bicester, Brize Norton and Kidlington gave up their Saturday on November 4 to sell hundreds of poppies to shoppers, many of whom were visiting the new Westgate Centre.

They were joined by representatives of the Royal British Legion, and the Waterloo Band and Bugles of the Rifles were there to entertain the crowds.

Witney Gazette:

Poppy Appeal collectors in Oxford. From left Lauren Warnes, 15, and Will Dinmore, 16, from the Brize Norton 2267 Air Cadets. Picture David Fleming

Among the collectors were Priyanka Gandhi, 17, and Gabriella Britt, 15, both from 2210 (Cowley) Squadron, Royal Air Force Air Cadets.

Priyanka said: "There are people who have died fighting for this country and people are still fighting in wars - and we're here to raise them some money for them by selling poppies.

"It's good to be part of something you know is going towards a good cause."

Joining them in the city centre were Will Dinmore, 16, and Lauren Warnes, 15, of 2267 (Brize Norton) Squadron.

Will said: "It's a good way to get some publicity for the cadets and raise money by getting lots of people to buy poppies."

He said it 'felt great' to be making a difference by contributing to the county's fundraising efforts.

The teenager added: "There are service people out there on tours and in operations now – and being part of the air cadets you get to see a lot of that first hand.”

- Martin Pearce, 61, a semi-retired magazine publisher, has been recently recruited as a collector by the Royal British Legion.

Witney Gazette:

Mr Pearce, who lives with wife Hillary in Islip, near Bicester, said he wanted to support the Poppy Appeal as several members of his family had been in the Armed Forces.

He has been a collector for the past two years after being asked to step in by RBL county chairman Lynda Atkins.

Mr Pearce said: "People buying poppies do seem terrifically generous - there's a real groundswell of support in Islip.

"It's only a small village but you can see by the number of names on the war memorial that the First World War had a devastating effect on local families.

"The Poppy is a symbol of great hope for the Armed Forces and supports those who served in the past and those who are serving today."