Former Sheffield soldier urges people to dig deep as Poppy Appeal is launched

A pile of the iconic red emblem of the British Legion's annual poppy appeal. Press Association
A pile of the iconic red emblem of the British Legion's annual poppy appeal. Press Association
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Former soldier Luke Sorby struggled to adjust to civilian life after leaving the Army.

He went from job to job, broke up with his partner and, with nowhere to go, he moved back to Sheffield where he was homeless and forced to sleep on friends’ sofas.

The 25-year-old eventually ended up in a hostel living on just a few pounds a week.

But the father-of-three is now turning his life around thanks to The Royal British Legion and hopes his story will encourage more people to donate to this year’s Poppy Appeal.

Luke said: “If it wasn’t for the Royal British Legion I don’t know where I would be.

“I’d still be living in the hostel trying to survive off £20 a week – that’s all I had left once the council took out my money for the hostel.

“They help a lot of people in different ways. I don’t think people realise just how much they help people.”

Luke joined the Army as soon as he left City School, in Sheffield, in 2006 and served as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery regiment until 2010.

He did not serve in any conflicts because he damaged his back before his regiment was due to be posted to Afghanistan.

He decided to leave the Army when his then partner was pregnant with twins, Lilly and Jessica, now four, and his back problems were getting worse.

But Luke struggled to adjust to civilian life and after the couple split up he moved back to Sheffield in 2012.

Earlier this year Luke got in touch with The Royal British Legion for support.

Its welfare team helped to find suitable accommodation in Jordanthorpe and paid for his rent and bond through the Benefits and Money Advice team. The Legion also paid for a new fridge freezer, bed and other essential household goods.

Luke is now settled with a new partner and is considering starting a college course to learn a new trade.

He said: “It wasn’t nice living in a hostel with people who had far more serious issues than I did. Not having anywhere to live, I was forced to take pay day loans and got myself into a couple of thousand pounds worth of debt.

“But now thanks to the legion, I have a decent roof over my head and am claiming the right benefits so I don’t have to struggle as much.

“I can also see my kids more often which has made a huge difference.

“I can’t thank the Legion enough for their help. They gave me a fresh start and I feel more positive about the future.”

The generosity of the public helped the Legion answer more than 450,000 calls for help in the last year.

The money raised from the Poppy Appeal goes towards its work with current serving personnel, veterans and their families, including innovative dementia care, theatre recovery projects, world-leading research on blast injury studies, and seaside break centres.

The national fundraising target for this year’s Poppy Appeal is £41 million which will help the Legion continue its vital work to the Armed Forces community.

Charles Byrne, director of fundraising, said: “The Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as it has ever been supporting today’s generation of service personnel, veterans, and their families whether living with an injury or illness, coping with bereavement or finding employment.

“We’re encouraging people to dig deep for this year’s Poppy Appeal to help us raise £41 million.

“The Legion’s work is entirely dependent on the public’s generous support – so please wear your poppy with pride, knowing that you are helping the Armed Forces community to live on.”