A COVENTRIAN who has dedicated the last 50 years of her life to the Poppy Appeal in the city has been honoured by the Queen.
Margaret Batten, long-term organiser of Coventry’s Poppy Appeal, has been presented with a Queen’s Award – the highest honour given to volunteer groups.
The 78-year-old and her team of 26 fellow volunteers attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace on May 19 – which happened to also be Margaret’s birthday – where they met the Queen and were congratulated for their service.
Speaking to the Observer, Margaret said she was inspired to start selling poppies by her father, who had served in the Royal Artillery as a gunner on horseback.
“My dad was in the Battle of the Somme in 1916,” she explained.
“He was one of the lucky few who returned alive, but he was injured.
“He didn’t speak much about the horrific things he went through, but told us about how he had to shoot his beloved horse – his companion who he’d spent every day with – when he realise how badly injured it was.
“How he survived the Somme I will never know.”
Since she began selling poppies in Coventry in her twenties, Margaret believes her and the team of volunteers have raised millions of pounds for the Poppy Appeal through their efforts.
Last year alone, the team raised £54,000 in a fortnight – and this year they hope to top that.
Margaret added: “This year is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, 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 without fail to sell poppies.
“This award is not just for me – it is for all of them.”
The group were nominated for the award by former city councillor and Lord Mayor of Coventry, Hazel Noonan.
Speaking about her nomination, Ms Noonan said: “I met Margaret during my year as Lord Mayor, which was a special year as it marked the 100 year anniversary of the First World War.
“I saw first hand the work she was doing for the Poppy Appeal and considering the number of years she had been working hard for the cause, I just thought she deserved an award.
“We all buy a poppy in November to mark Remembrance Day, but she works all year round to make it a success.
“I am absolutely delighted for Margaret and the association she represents that she has been rewarded for her years and years of hard work.”
Margaret and the volunteer team will be presented with a crystal trophy and a certificate signed by the Queen later at a ceremony at St Mary’s Hall in the city this year.
There, the group will also be presented with commemorative broaches in honour of their dedication to the Poppy Appeal.