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Remembrance Day: ‘I don’t want to return to the dark place where I was and I’ll try to help anyone there escape’

Veteran Donald with boxes of poppies
Veteran Donald with boxes of poppies

FIVE million poppies and 12,000 wreaths are produced each year for the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

A team of 40 at the Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh are responsible for making every single one by hand.

And for veteran Donald McLeod, the work has proved to be a salvation.

Donald, from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Falklands and subsequently ended up homeless.

“When we were told we were going to the Falklands I had no idea where that was,” said Donald, 58.

“We had planes coming in from nowhere and bombing us, and we came under artillery fire.

“We attacked Mount Tumbledown and it was nine hours of hand-to-hand fighting. Then, at half past nine in the morning, the Argentinians surrendered.”

Donald with his dog Biggles

Scots Guardsman Donald, who had previously been based at Chelsea Barracks in London and whose duties included Trooping The Colour, found it hard to adjust on his return and even harder after leaving the Army.

His lowest point came when he found himself homeless.

“The hardest thing is people walking past you, thinking you’re scum.”

He got off the streets thanks to the intervention of the Scottish Veterans Residences before eventually ending up at the Poppyscotland factory in Edinburgh.

A simple cross in a lonely glen bears only two names. Today, as a nation pauses, the fallen brothers will be remembered

He began making poppies, producing up to 21,000 in a week, then moved on to wreath-making.

He’s aided by collie/spaniel-cross therapy dog Biggles who has helped him overcome the bouts of aggression that have afflicted him since leaving the army.

“I just want to enjoy life and not go back to the dark days,” says Donald.

“And I want to help anyone who is in the place I was all those years ago

“I don’t think any ex-soldier should find themselves sleeping on the streets.

“Every penny to Poppyscotland helps give support.”

 

How you can help

Poppyscotland provides live-changing help for the Forces community. Find out more or donate at poppyscotland.org.uk