YOUNG and old soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder to launch Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2012.

New Army recruits and Second World War veterans with decades experience came together at the launch event held at the Army Aviation Centre in Middle Wallop.

Guests included Staff Sergeant Arthur Shackleton – a 94-year-old veteran who was shot in the shoulder when he fought at Arnhem in 1944 – and teenage air trooper Leah Kenny with whom Arthur shared his wartime experience.

They were decades apart in age but showed the wide age range that the British Legion supports through the vital appeal.

Last year Hampshire raised more than £1.3 million for the Poppy Appeal and this year the Legion hope to raise even more.

Thousands of poppies will now be distributed across the county and will go on sale ahead of Remembrance Sunday on November 11. An army of volunteers will now help with the appeal and sell the poppies at various locations across the region.

Colonel Peter Eadic, commandant of the Army Aviation Centre urged the public to give generously.

He said: “It doesn’t matter whether they are 18 or 80. If they have seen service they may need support and the Royal British Legion and the Poppy Appeal raises money to support everyone and their families when they need it the most.

“It is a massive safety net and a huge reassurance to all of us.”

Serving Hampshire sergeant major dad-of-two Berni Jenkins said that in the 23 years he has served in the Army in places including Northern Island, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, he has seen first hand how the money can help his colleagues and their families.

He said: “It is massively important to show our support for those who have fallen, given the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for our nation and for those who have sacrificed but are still about, still hurting and needing help.

“Please wear your poppy with pride. To me seeing someone wearing a poppy is a sign of support – for those soldiers before us and in the future too.”

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Nicholls, 86, who was a pilot in the Second World War, said: “In a way the Royal British Legion is a little remote until something nasty happens. The Army is like one big family so when something nasty happens they respond, their protective arms reach out to help and that has happened on many occasions.”

The Royal British Legion said it spends £1.7m a week on care and support for military families including grants, employment advice and funding, emotional support, tribunal and inquest advice, care homes and family breaks.