POPPY appeals have been launched in communities across County Durham in a bid to raise thousands of pounds in support of army veterans.

The Royal British Legion is trying to raise a record amount this year through its poppy appeal, to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War.

In Durham, the appeal was launched by five-year-old William Curry, who has been supporting the work of the legion for three years and has previously laid wreaths on behalf of his family on Remembrance Sunday.

The youngster, who is a pupil at St Margaret’s Primary School, in Neville’s Cross, presented Mayor of Durham John Lethbridge with a poppy during the event in the city’s Market Place.

Paul Curry, his dad, said: “Both his great grandads fought in the war, one on the First World War and one in the Second World War, and it’s very important to him.

“He’s very passionate about remembrance.”

David Wheeler, from the Brandon and District branch of the RBL, said: “In Durham we’re aiming to raise £100,000 this year to support ex-service personnel and those who are serving now.”

In Barnard Castle, members of the community turned out to watch the switching on of a peace tree, which has been created at the town’s Scar Top.

A tree will be illuminated by white lights throughout the two-week appeal and people will have the opportunity to leave poppies on a chain around the tree to commemorate their own loved ones.

Michael King, clerk of Barnard Castle Town Council, which is organising the appeal, said: “It’s a celebration of peace. Because of the centenary of the armistice it’s all about what flowed out of the First World War.”

The Northern Echo:

Among those attending the launch were volunteers who have been knitting poppies to create a display outside the town council’s building.

About 3,500 poppies were made for the cascade as part of a project coordinated by Pauline Harrison.

Bishop Auckland’s appeal was launched by veteran Andrew Wardle, formerly of the 2nd battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards), who was awarded the Military Cross after running into enemy fire to rescue a critically injured child during the war in Afghanistan.

Members of the King James Women’s Institute, who created a poppy banner last year, unveiled some newly added purple poppies, which were added to recognise the contribution made by animals to the conflict.

WI member Ann Williams-Maughan, who helps to organise the appeal, said: “It’s so important we keep doing it to remember the people who gave their lives all those years ago.”