REMEMBRANCE: ‘It’s a great honour’

A FORMER army veteran has received an invite to a prestigious event after nearly 40 years of dedication towards a charity supporting veterans and their families.

Michael Smith, who has volunteered with the Royal British Legion’s Maltby Branch for 39 years, will attend the charity’s Festival of Remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Saturday.

He joined the Junior Parachute Regiment in 1975 and his experiences led to time serving in Northern Ireland and an appearance in the war film A Bridge Too Far.

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The Maltby veteran said: “It is a great honour to have been part of the Royal British Legion’s Maltby branch for 39 years on the Poppy Appeal.

“They say being in the army is something that never leaves you and I was touched by the togetherness and friendship I felt.

“I served in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, which was risky, but something I enjoyed being part of because you got on with every challenge you faced, and it toughened you up.”

On a lighter note, Michael (65) met stars Sean Connery, Robert Redford and Richard Attenborough when he and his comrades were asked to shoot a sequence in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, which he called an “incredible experience”.

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He added: “The army asked us if we wanted to be part of filming and it’s something you can’t turn down.

“I did one of the jump sequences in the film which was an honour to be part of.

“Meeting the likes of Sean Connery and Richard Attenborough, who directed the film, left me awestruck.

“It was an incredible experience and something I look back on fondly.”

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Only the effects of frostbite suffered in Norway stopped Michael from staying in the army longer and he said the British Legion allowed him to be “part of something special”.

He added: “It was a big shock being on ‘civvy street’ for the first time after leaving the army but when the Legion called, it gave me a purpose after leaving the army.

“Selling poppies is important because it means I can give back to people who are in a worse position than me.

“It helps support the British Legion and rekindles the memory of those who gave their lives for us today.

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“I often have people who break down in tears after describing their painful experiences and it really is heartbreaking but it connects us all really as so many families have been affected by war.

“I hope I can make all those people proud of me during the service at the Royal Albert Hall.

“I intend to sell poppies for many years to come.”

You can find out more about the Festival of Remembrance at