Bridgnorth born Irene Hazlehurst grew up knowing that she wanted to be a Wren in the Navy, but she had to wait until she was 16½ before her father would grant her permission—in those days you needed parental consent!- and she followed her dream, passing her exams and becoming an Officer Steward.
It was while serving in Fareham that Irene met her husband George, who was involved in Radio and Radar and worked on Frigates and Destroyers. Although George hailed from Cheshire, it was to Bridgnorth that the couple decided to return to on leaving the Navy to bring up their family.
Their three children all live reasonably locally now, and they have 5grandchildren. In pride of place on the living room wall is a picture of the Hazlehurst’s grandson, an Endowed School pupil, in his air cadets’ uniform, proudly following in his grandparents’ footsteps.
The couple got involved with the British Legion in Bridgnorth in the 1970’s and have remained staunch supporters ever since. The branch, which was originally donated to the Servicemen and Women of Bridgnorth by the Apley Estate, relies upon volunteers and although at times it’s a struggle to find the volunteers, members are determined to keep it very much alive.
Irene reflects, “The work of the Royal British Legion is now more important than ever and I’m so pleased to see that support through the wearing of poppies seems to be a growing, rather than a dying trend”. George agreed; “Our lads and girls are still going to war and they need to be looked after—there is still very much a sense of ‘Pride in Yesterday’ amongst so many people in the town.” It is money raised from the Legion’s annual poppy appeal which goes towards helping the heroes of yesterday and today, and is an absolute lifeline for service personnel—especially those injured in the line of duty.
Organising the poppy appeal is a military operation; there are an army of volunteers—over 125collectors in the area—raising over £16,000 annually, and Irene was responsible for co-ordinating the whole process from poppy deliveries to cash counting and collection.
While I was visiting the Hazlehurst’s, the milkman appeared—he was somewhat taken aback by Irene’s uniform, which she had kindly put on for my photographs. As we explained what it is that Irene did, he was clearly impressed by this quiet local hero of ours and remarked “you just wear a poppy—you don’t always think about how it gets there.” It’s an important ‘behind the scenes’ type of job but crucial nonetheless. Irene has now handed over the poppy co-ordination for Bridgnorth to Barry Shorthouse. If you would like to volunteer to help with distribution of poppies do call him on 07775726556.