90-year-old former Commando and Poppy Appeal collector praises generous shoppers

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A 90-year-old Second World War veteran collecting for the Poppy Appeal has praised the generosity of shoppers in Bedford.

Former Commando William Lavery, who fought in Burma, has been collecting for the Royal British Legion outside the Primark store in town.

He said he has had a steady stream of people donating coins, and on Saturday, his collecting tin was full.

He said: “People ask me about my medals, and put their coins in.

“On one day I got four fivers put in, which I was amazed by, and Primark kindly bring me a chair to sit on and a cup of tea.”

He added: “All the money is welcome. I became a member of the Legion after I got out of the army in 1946. They have been very good to me.”

Mr Lavery volunteered against his mother’s advice when he was just 18 years old. He had been working as an apprentice painter and decorator but decided to “take the King’s shilling”.

He said: “In Burma, we fought to keep the Japanese troops out of India.

“After the war, I visited Kohima and the war graves of the young men. It’s so sad, I could have cried my eyes out.”

After he was discharged from the Army, Mr Lavery returned to life as a tradesman, but went on to become a Church minister.

He said: “I try to help the appeal every year, as there are fewer people willing to sit in the cold and sell poppies.”