Save Poppy Appeal to say thank you to SBS team who rescued hijacked ship

A TEAM of crack soldiers from the SBS fast-roping from helicopters in the pitch-dark to rescue the crew of a cargo ship in English waters is a timely reminder of why we owe a debt to our Armed Forces.

When wars involving British troops are not on our TVs every night, we soon forget about the men and women who keep us safe.

It is 40 years since the SAS spectacularly rescued hostages from the Iranian Embassy in London.

But in the intervening years, descendants of that Special Forces team who were on stand-by for such an occasion have almost been forgotten.

Yet late on Sunday night, a team of Special Boat Service commandos hit the decks of the Nave Andromeda to do what they have been trained for — bring to a swift end a “hijack” drama three miles off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

With the oil tanker’s crew safely in the ship’s citadel, or strong room, the men of the SBS stand-by team waited until last light to strike — with speed, aggression and surprise.

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One group of SBS lads made a “hard arrest” of the seven Nigerians who had threatened the lives of the 22 crewmen during the stand-off. While another team will have made straight to the citadel to free the terrified sailors. 

It was all over in nine minutes.

This team, from SBS HQ in nearby Poole, Dorset, are on permanent stand-by to protect our oil rigs and shipping from terrorist threat.

Every one of them — just like all the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces — signed a non-liability contract when they joined up. This means they can be killed or maimed on the job without any comeback to their employer.

Who else on the planet would sign an employment contract like that?

But the men and women of our Armed Forces willingly agree to those terms to defend us, the British people.

They also know that as part of that contract the nation can call on them in times of crisis.

In the late 1970s, it was driving Green Goddess fire engines during the firemen’s strike. Or, during the floods in the summer of last year, flying in giant bags of hardcore to protect the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge being flooded as a dam threatened to burst.

Grateful locals later thanked the military teams from RAF ­Odiham and named a new Chinook beer after their ­helicopters.

And this year, during the pandemic, we expected the troops to rally to our aid by manning testing centres and building Nightingale hospitals in record time. 

Because our forces live separated lives in garrison towns like Catterick or Colchester, and on air and naval bases, very few civilians have an everyday connection with the military.

But this latest crisis at home has reminded people of the men and women who serve in the Navy, Army, RAF and Special Forces, and the remarkable work they do for our nation. 

And when they leave the ­services they not only need our help with aftercare — they DESERVE it.

That is why it is vital that the work of the Royal British Legion is not affected by the Covid crisis — and why I’m backing The Sun’s Poppy Star campaign. The number of ­collectors out on the streets for this year’s Poppy Appeal is likely to be down by a third because of the pandemic, so we must make sure that the amount of money raised does not also drop.

In Wales, the national 17-day lockdown means there will be no poppy sellers — though you will still be able to buy one in shops and supermarkets.

Please check out all the alternative ways you can donate to the Poppy Appeal because it is our way to say thank you to the servicemen and women who put their lives at risk keeping us safe.

How to be a poppy star

THE pandemic may have stopped thousands of sellers from hitting the streets — but it doesn’t have to stop you from buying a poppy. MIKE RIDLEY looks at some of the ways you can do your bit for the appeal by going to:

  1. Fundraise for appeal: Move to Remember and the 11/11 Challenge are among the fundraising suggestions from the appeal itself. Free fundraising packs on the website will give the help and support you will need.
  2. Poppies in the post: Help make up for the reduced number of volunteer collectors by requesting 20 poppies free of charge from the RBL — and then giving them to friends and family yourself in return for a donation.
  3. My poppy run 2020: Run, walk or jog any distance, anywhere and at any time. Get family and friends involved to raise cash. And buy a T-shirt to run in and a medal to give to yourself afterwards!
  4. Visit the poppy shop: There is an extensive range of products from poppy pins and jewellery to clothing, stationery and homeware. All profits fund the Legion’s work in supporting the Armed Forces community.
  5. Make online donation: Alternatively, you could just visit the British Legion’s website and make a donation. You can choose a one-off payment or set up a regular amount — and no amount is too small.


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