Meet Britain’s oldest poppy seller aged 101: ‘I’ll carry on selling poppies for as long as I keep going’

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The Independent Online

An indomitable veteran is thought to be Britain’s oldest poppy seller at 101 years old – more than 70 years after he left the Army at the end of the Second World War.

Wally Randall from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, who remains in remarkably good health and still lives independently, drives, delivers newsletters for his church and enjoys gardening, left his job at Vauxhall Motors in Luton to join the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940.

Following training in London, he supported British forces during the war by maintaining and repairing military vehicles, including a fleet of more than 20 motorcycles for the Intelligence Corps when they were based in Winchester.

In 1942, Mr Randall boarded the SS Île de France to make the six-month journey to Singapore, but those plans were scuppered when Japanese military forces occupied the nation.

He told the Independent: "We were kitted out for the Far East, but Japan took hold of Singapore so we spent three weeks in Durban while we waited to hear the decision of what to do. 

“Then we went into North Africa to Benghazi and Tripoli before the Germans came and drove us all back into Egypt. 

“But we managed to reform and went back up again to El Alamein and started to push them [the Germans] out."

Mr Randall then travelled to Sicily and spent two years in Italy until 1945.

When he returned home with his Africa Star and Italy Star medals he went back to the job he left at Vauxhall and also started working with his local Royal British Legion.

He said selling poppies was the obvious thing to do to raise awareness, while also supporting veterans and current soldiers and insists he will continue collecting for the Poppy Appeal for as long as he can. 

"It's miserable out in Afghanistan [for troops],” he added. 

“It must be terrible for some of them, so I'll carry on selling poppies for as long as I can keep going."

He has received his 30, 40 and 45 years service medals for selling poppies and is due to be awarded his 50-year badge – the highest honour there is – during a ceremony at his local British Legion in the coming weeks.

Derek Mitchell, secretary of Royal British Legion Leighton Buzzard, said: “Wally has been a great supporter of the Leighton Buzzard British Legion in a variety of roles over many years.

“When I took over from him as club chairman I realised I had some big boots to fill, but Wally was always on hand to offer advice when asked for and steered me in the right direction. 

“He is an old school gentleman and I am proud to know him and call him my friend.”

Mr Randall, who has been heavily involved in Freemasonry for the past 50 years, will lay a wreath for local Masons who lost their lives at war on Remembrance Sunday in Leighton Buzzard this weekend.