The fourth Poppies to Paddington train service will reach new heights, with Remembrance wreaths travelling from Cornwall to Plymouth by Royal Navy chopper.  

A Merlin helicopter will be deployed to carry poppy wreaths from RNAS Culdrose near Helston to Plymouth on Monday, ahead of the GWR Remembrance service on Friday, November 10.

With planned engineering work preventing trains from running between Penzance and Plymouth, it means Poppies to Paddington will still serve Cornwall along with the wider South West.

Wreaths from West Cornwall were delivered to the air base for transportation. In addition, a Go South West bus service will collect wreaths from mainline stations throughout the county on Thursday, leaving Penzance at 11.30am and arriving in Plymouth at 3.30pm.

Six ‘Poppy’ trains are expected to collect more than 200 wreaths from GWR stations ahead of the service at the war memorial on London Paddington’s Platform 1. The Plymouth service will leave at 0637 next Friday morning, arriving at London Paddington at 1029. .

This year’s service will remember 70 years since the end of the Korean War, which saw 81,000 Armed Forces personnel engaged in conflict, with the Gloucester Regiment and the Royal Fusiliers involved in some of the heaviest fighting.

Poppies to Paddington was conceived in 2020 by The Veterans Charity and GWR to ensure communities within the GWR network could honour fallen heroes despite the restrictions in place around Covid-19.

Veteran’s Charity trustee Iain Anderson, who is based in West Cornwall, recalled how an elderly veteran lamented having missed major milestones such as the 75th anniversaries of VE Day and VJ Day. “It was looking likely that we would also miss Armistice Day.”

The success of previous poppy-related initiatives, such as sowing poppies from Land’s End to John O’Groats, coupled with the railway track at the end of his garden, inspired him to ask GWR if the charity could “borrow a train”.

The rail company provided nine, and Poppies to Paddington was born, with services travelling from locations across the network including Carmarthen, Worcester and Great Malvern.

As well as being a practical means of getting poppies to the capital, the transport was also a poignant reflection of the role of the railways in wars since the Crimean.

“The country wouldn’t have stood a chance in the First or Second World Wars without the railways,” said Mr Anderson, who served in the RAF in the UK and Gibraltar. “They would have been used by tens of thousands of soldiers, and there’s a whole family of veterans intertwined with the railways.”

Mr Anderson anticipates there will be 50 wreaths leaving Plymouth on November 10. Notable wreaths arriving in Paddington include one touring England ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day next year, and another in memory of charity patron Reg Charles, who died earlier this year.  

“In the next few years, we will lose our remaining Second World War veterans, and not far behind them are the Korean War veterans,” said Mr Anderson. “But many of my friends served in places like Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s good to see them get recognition.”

GWR is allowing free travel for military personnel and veterans travelling to remembrance events on Friday, November 10.

Those attending services of remembrance can travel to and from the events by train for free on Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12 courtesy of Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies.

The offer is open to serving military personnel in uniform or who show a current Ministry of Defence-issued identity card. Veterans can show a Veterans Railcard, a Veterans Oyster card or other proof of service, such as a Ministry of Defence-issued Veterans ID card.