Carmel Connolly, The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Veteran who sold over a Million Poppies has died

Women's Auxiliary Air Force, UK (right), Poppies, a symbol of remembrance (left). <a href=>Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos</a>
Women's Auxiliary Air Force, UK (right), Poppies, a symbol of remembrance (left). Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Hundreds turned out recently for the funeral of 105-year-old Carmel Connolly who sold more than a million poppies after serving in World War II. She was a former member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) who survived Luftwaffe bombing raids.

Carmel proudly wore her service medals to raise hundreds of the thousands of pounds for the British Royal Legion, telling future generations of her war participation, and the necessity of the charity’s work.

She was described as a ‘Poppy Saint’ by Danny Cassidy, appeal co-ordinator, who presented her with a 60-year-long service award.

It took pride of place, alongside her 100th birthday telegram from the Queen, in her home in Spennymoor, Co Durham.

He said she worked without pay as a volunteer and turned out regardless of the weather.

He cannot begin to assume how much she must have raised over the years; it will be in the hundreds of thousands and maybe more. Her dedication was such that she would assist throughout the year, not just in the two weeks in November for Remembrance Day.

She worked for the church too, added Cassidy, who thinks that accounted for her long life. It is hard to fathom that she is no longer with them. She was always busy, always assisting others.

Connolly was given a military sendoff, the British flag draped over her casket as the ‘Last Post’ played.

The service concluded with Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ at Spennymoor’s St Charles RC Church.

Her friend Danielle Neighbour, the legion’s community fundraising manager, explained how Connolly dedicated more than 40 years of her life to the Appeal, serving well into her second 100 years.

She started fundraising for the charity about 1960, after attending a military parade in London for Remembrance Day. She married her late Patrick Francis in 1988, Mirror reported.

She enlisted in 1939 and served at different air bases during the war.

Born Maria Carmel Jackson in 1911, she was remembered for her unwavering kindness, her sense of humor, and her zest for life.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE