10,000 poppies fall from the sky as Peterborough marks 100 years since the end of First World War

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Ten thousand poppies fell from the sky as Peterborough marked 100 years since the end of the First World War.

The eye-catching display at Queensgate Shopping Centre helped launch the Poppy Appeal in Peterborough which raises money for the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The launch of the Poppy Appeal at Queensgate Shopping Centre

The launch of the Poppy Appeal at Queensgate Shopping Centre

The appeal is always a poignant time of the year, but the extra significance of the centenary since the guns fell silent was reflected in this morning's service which took place on the ground floor of the shopping centre by Primark and River Island.

One of those who gave a moving speech in front of dignitaries and a crowd of spectators was Major Tony Elsey, President of the Peterborough branch of the RBL, who outlined the tragic loss of life during the Great Way and why the charity, which was formed in 1921, remains so important today.

He said: "At the end of the war six million men had served; 725,000 did not return, 1.75 million were disabled, and by 1921 the war had so ravaged the economy there were two million unemployed.

"Over 34,000 children had lost a parent, and many more a brother or uncle. And that was just in the United Kingdom. Many more had answered the call from across the Commonwealth, fought, and were wounded or died. Their sacrifice must not be forgotten.

"The need has continued with every conflict in which serving men and women have been involved in ever since 1918. We have been there for the disabled, the families of those killed or injured and those who have, and still do, suffer from mental health issues as a consequence of their service.

"The Royal British Legion provides homes, assistance, job training, financial aid and support with health needs to name a few of our services."

The appeal launch began with military personnel and dignitaries marching from the Town Hall into Queensgate through the Long Causeway entrance.

Queensgate centre director Mark Broadhead began proceedings inside the shopping centre, followed by a reading from 12-year-old Kelsey Mai O’Sullivan, and there was a speech from an "honoured" Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Chris Ash who reflected on the "damage to many millions of lives" over the years, including those who worked away from the frontline to keep the country running.

Squadron Leader Stewart Shaw from RAF Wittering read out the Ode of Remembrance, before the Last Post was played and the centre fell quiet for a two minute silence, which is when the thousands of poppies fell from the ceiling.

This was followed by performances from the Nene Park Academy and Queensgate’s operations manager and war history author, David Gray.

The theme for this year's appeal is to say a huge thank you to those who lived during the war and shaped the world we live in today, with schools in Peterborough taking part in the project.

Visitors to Queensgate can also take in a Vivacity First World War exhibition which has been loaned to the shopping centre.