Rachel Riley among stars joining covert Poppy Appeal campaign

The Countdown star headed to Salford to kick off this year's annual campaign to raise money for those in the British armed forces.

Rachel Riley has gone “undercover” as a Poppy Appeal collector to celebrate the thousands of volunteers who give up their free time for the Royal British Legion’s annual appeal.

In her role in the Operation Poppy campaign, supported by GCHQ – the Government’s intelligence, cyber and security agency – in its centenary year, the Countdown star has teamed up with some of the Legion’s 40,000 poppy sellers to shine a light on their fundraising efforts.

The campaign will help to highlight how the money raised every year is used to support serving and former members of the British armed forces and their families, and the sacrifices they have made.

The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2019
Rachel Riley takes part in Operation Poppy alongside Alex Henshaw in Salford (Royal British Legion/PA)

As part of this year’s campaign, members of the public are invited to solve cryptic clues developed by GCHQ’s codebreakers to reveal who the secret collectors are.

Riley and comedian Eddie Izzard are the first two stars to be unveiled, and the other famous faces taking part in the fundraising exercise will be revealed throughout the day on Thursday.

The TV star and maths whizz, who is pregnant with her first child with her former Strictly Come Dancing star husband Pasha Kovalev, joined forces with collectors in Salford to help launch the 2019 Poppy Appeal.

Riley said: “I’ve gone undercover as part of the Royal British Legion and GCHQ’s Operation Poppy to highlight the hard work and dedication of the 40,000 Poppy Appeal collectors who give up their time each year, and to shine a spotlight on our armed forces who sacrifice so much to serve our country.”

She met Alex Henshaw, who won Young Volunteer of the Year 2019 for the North West for his involvement in the Legion’s Riders branch.

Riley said it was a “pleasure” to join him, adding: “Every Poppy collector, like Alex, has a unique story to tell so please, look out for your local collector, make a donation and wear your poppy with pride.”

Operation Poppy will take place across the day on Thursday on both the news and on social media, as well as screens at London’s Paddington Station, where members of the public can watch the celebrities being revealed and hear stories of those serving in the armed forces.

The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2019
Rachel Riley launches Operation Poppy alongside Alex Henshaw in Salford (Royal British Legion/PA)

The Royal British Legion’s director of fundraising, Claire Rowcliffe, said: “Our undercover celebrities and the puzzles are a fun and engaging way for the public to get involved in this year’s Poppy Appeal launch, but there is a serious message at its heart.

“Life for those in the armed forces community comes with a whole host of challenges and difficulties – from those that endure the daily sacrifice of being away from loved ones, to those carrying out roles that so often go unnoticed, such as at GCHQ.

“This year is all about telling the hidden stories of our armed forces who provide an incredible service to our country in all kinds of ways, and telling the stories of the collectors who volunteer every year to show their support for them.”

The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal takes place from October 24 until Armistice Day on November 11.

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