AN INSIPRATIONAL Coventry woman, who has dedicated the last 50 years to raising millions of pounds for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, has been presented with an award from the Queen at a glittering ceremony.
Margaret Batten, long-term organiser of Coventry’s Poppy Appeal, was received a Queen’s Award – the highest honour given to volunteer groups – and commemorative certificate signed by the Queen in honour of her service to the charity appeal.
The 78-year-old began selling poppies in the city centre in her twenties, after being inspired by her father’s brave service as a gunner on horseback during World Ward One.
Charles Batten lied about his age to enlist in the Royal Artillery – fighting at Ypres, Passchendaele and in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – before returning home injured, but lucky to be alive.
And every November for more than half a century, Margaret’s memories of her father’s efforts spur her on to brave the cold, selling poppies on Coventry’s street corners.
Since she began organising the Coventry Poppy Appeal, Margaret believes her and her team of dedicated volunteers have raised millions of pounds.
Last year alone, they raised £54,000 in a fortnight – and hope to top that this year on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Speaking to the Observer, Margaret said: “I am so proud of the group and the hard work they have put in throughout the years.
“This year especially so it would mean so much to me if Coventry topped that fundraising total.
“The group have been absolutely marvelous and come back every year to sell poppies and volunteer in our little shop in the city centre library.
“I have no intention of retiring from my Poppy Appeal duties any time soon, but this award is not just for me – it is for all of the people who help me all year round.”
Margaret was presented with her Queen’s Award by West Midlands Deputy Lieutenant Dr Satya Sharma MBE at St Mary’s Hall, on Bayley Lane in the city centre.
Each of the volunteers was presented with a commemorative broach in honour of their dedication to the Poppy Appeal.
Commending Margaret for her long-serving voluntary efforts, Deputy Lieutenant Sharma MBE said: “Margaret is an inspirational woman.
“She is carrying on her father’s legacy – not just carrying the flag, but raiding it even higher in his memory.
“I was very impressed by her work and the phenomenal amount of money her and the volunteers have raised over the years.
“It was uplifting to see an event full of such warm and supportive people and it was my pleasure to represent the Queen in giving the award to the head of such a wonderful organisation.”
Earlier this year, Margaret and a 26-strong team of volunteers were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, where they met the Queen and were congratulated for their service.