OXFORDSHIRE'S Lord Lieutenant called for residents to raise a record amount for the Poppy Appeal as this year's campaign was launched by a Royal Navy diving instructor.

Chief Petty Officer Joe Gow emerged from a training lake at St George's Barracks near Bicester, clutching a giant poppy.

The barracks is home of the Defence Explosive Ordnance Munitions and Search (DEMS) Training Regiment and personnel from all three services are given vital tips on how to tackle underwater explosives.

Following the launch of Oxfordshire's Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson OBE placed the 15-inch poppy on the Wall of Remembrance held at DEMS, which commemorates all those personnel who have served and trained at DEMS who have sadly lost their lives.

Mr Stevenson told those gathered at the lakeside yesterday: "In nine days' time we are going to be remembering Armistice Day, November 1918, the end of what everyone hoped would be the war to end all wars – sadly of course it was not that.

"I am expecting memorial services this year to be better attended than ever by people across Oxfordshire.

"The Royal British Legion does such wonderful work for armed forces' veterans and their families, helping them to cope with their difficulties, after some are killed in action.

"I hope the amount of money raised this year will be a record."

Veteran Brian Leach, 50, said he could not do without the support of the RBL, after he was injured in Iraq in 2004.

A former Corporal in the Royal Ordnance Corps and the Royal Logistic Corps, he was in uniform for 21 years but was medically discharged in 2010 after he suffered injuries to his leg and shoulder.

The father-of-five from Chesterton, near Bicester, said: "I had a bad day at the office when the vehicle I was in went over a device.

"After I was discharged the RBL has always supported me and helped me to find a disability-adapted bungalow and sorted out my finances.

"I shake a tin for the Poppy Appeal and I want other people to support it as well - I'm hoping it will be a record year in Oxfordshire because everyone is thinking of the centenary of The Armistice.

"But at the same time veterans from other conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands should not be forgotten - they also need support and their families do too."

Mr Leach, who lives in Chesterton, near Bicester, said supporting the RBL and helping the local Poppy Appeal was a way he could pay the charity back for its support.

Backing for this year's Poppy Appeal has also come from D Day veteran Basil Lyster, who earlier this year was presented with the Légion d’honneur medal, for his role in helping to liberate France during the Second World War.

Serving in the Royal Marines, Mr Lyster was in charge of magazines for the gunners, providing vital covering fire for soldiers attempting to land on Sword Beach in Normandy.

The 93-year-old, who has lived in Horton-cum-Studley, for more than 50 years, said: "The Poppy Appeal is very important and I would urge everyone in Oxfordshire to support it.

"I was delighted to get the medal and there is going to be a special display at the village hall."

Fundraisers are hoping the centenary of The Armistice on November 11 will encourage people to smash last year's total of £607,473.62.

RBL county chairwoman Lynda Atkins said: "The launch of this year's Poppy Appeal was very dramatic.

"Remembrance has really caught the imagination this year and I am really hoping that a record amount is raised.

"As well as remembering the fallen, people should remember they are helping those who serve with the forces today, and their families.

"There are British forces serving right now in Syria who put their lives on the line and backing the Poppy Appeal is a very good way to show our support.

"I have been talking to Poppy Appeal collectors and some of them have already sold out and are asking for extra supplies – that's a very good sign."