An introductory image for the Centenary Stories series, featuring two portrait photos

Centenary Stories

Community has been core to The Poppy Factory since our charity began work in 1922. Throughout our special centenary year, we’re featuring some of the people who have contributed to our community in different ways, in Richmond-upon-Thames and across the UK.

A portrait of Major George Howson

George Howson

First World War veteran and Founder of The Poppy Factory.

Major Howson had a vision to employ veterans who had been injured in the First World War. He launched The Poppy Factory with a handful of workers and together they built an entire community. With great effort and entrepreneurial flair, Howson and his team laid strong foundations for the century ahead.

Noel Davies during service in the 1940s

Noel Davies

Second World War RAF veteran and production team member.

Noel Davies was recruited by the RAF in Nigeria. He built Spitfires and Lancaster bombers and later moved to London to find work as a civil engineer and then at The Poppy Factory. After his retirement, Noel continued making poppies from home on the factory estate. He died in 2021, aged 100.


Sarah Groves

Former Nursing Officer and Iraq veteran, now Disability Assessor.

Sarah Groves went through a challenging time after leaving Service. With help she was able to rebuild her confidence, transform her life and move forward into civilian employment. Sarah now works as a Disability Assessor, helping others who are going through experiences similar to her own.

Arthur Hurren

Arthur Hurren

Our first Sales Manager and Remembrance Club Secretary.

Arthur, who was severely injured in the First World War, joined the Disabled Society before it became The Poppy Factory. He had a flair for business and promotion, and like many of the veterans in the factory community, he refused to let his injuries get in the way of progress and personal development.

Dennis Williams, whose father was the first factory foreman

Dennis Williams

Son of the first factory foreman, "Bill" Williams, and his wife Mabel.

Dennis Williams was among the first generation of children to be born at The Poppy Factory. Here Dennis reflects on his experience of growing up as the son of the foreman and within the factory community, while making a return visit to The Poppy Factory for the first time in more than 60 years.

Paul Wright at Liverpool FC

Paul Wright

Former soldier, helping young people to make positive choices.

Paul Wright went through a difficult time outside the Forces. We helped Paul gain work supporting young people against a backdrop of Premier League football - first through Everton in the Community and more recently through LFC Foundation, the charity wing of Liverpool Football Club.

German bombers over London during the Blitz

1940 bombing tragedy

Eight women and children were killed in an air raid on one tragic night in November.

Families have always been vital to the life of The Poppy Factory, since the first generation of production workers moved to Richmond with their wives and children. Tragedy struck on 29 November, 1940 when a German bomb fell on an air raid shelter, killing five women and three children.


Sara Jones

Trustee and President of The Poppy Factory for 35 pivotal years.

This year has been one of contrasting anniversaries for Sara Jones. Alongside the centenary of our charity, which she helped lead over four decades, 2022 marked 40 years since the Falklands conflict and the death of her husband, H Jones, which drove Sara towards a lifetime of service.


Paul Clayton

Former soldier experienced mental health challenges years after the Falklands.

40 years on, the events of the Falkands remain vivid in Paul Clayton's memory. Employment support helped him get through a difficult period, and this year he shared his reflections on the lasting legacy of the conflict and donated an artillery shell casing, found on the battlefield, to our visitor centre.


Sir Jack Brunel Cohen

First World War veteran, MP and joint founder of The Disabled Society.

The Liverpool Fairfield MP, whose legs were amputated after he was severely wounded at Ypres, wanted to help veterans with disabilities overcome barriers to employment and training. He helped to establish The Disabled Society, which three years later would develop into The Poppy Factory.

The Poppy Factory centenary logo

Discover more

Book your visit to The Poppy Factory

Explore our 100-year timeline

Read inspiring stories of veterans who are moving into employment