MEL Rudge’s first “job” with the Royal British Legion was putting together the iconic poppies for the annual appeal as a five-year-old.

Now, more than 70 years he has been given the Legion’s highest award for a lifetime of service.

The medal was presented at the Watney Hall in Lydney by Group Captain Anny Reid who is a national trustee of the Royal British Legion.

She said: “It is with great pride and on behalf of the national chairman and the board of trustees of the Royal British Legion that I present you with the gold badge of the Royal British Legion.”

Mr Rudge said he was proud to be given the honour but insisted he was “nobody special”.

He said: “All the years I’ve been with the British Legion it’s been because I liked helping people, I wasn’t looking for any reward.

“I’m proud to receive it but why? I’m nobody special.”

The former soldier joined the Royal British Legion in Lydney in 1972 while serving with the Royal Corps of Signals.

His parents, George and Dorothy, were “strong” members of the Legion and he became involved from an early age.

He said: “My mother and father were strong members of the Legion – my mother was chairman of the women’s section for many years. George and Dorothy

“Back in the 40s and 50s the poppies came separately in boxes and you had to put them together and as a child I’d sit at the dining table and put them together and holding my mother’s hand deliver them around the street.

“I initially joined to become standard bearer for the branch and I went on to be vice-chairman, chairman, minutes secretary – I’ve done all sorts of jobs.

“Among that I had 15 years on the county committees.

Mr Rudge was on the welfare committee of the Lydney branch for many helping to ensure service families got the assistance they needed – but it took him years to accept help for his wife Brenda when she became ill.

“They got her a proper orthopaedic bed and a mobility scooter and we went to Somerset Legion House at Weston three times.”

Although he is no longer on the committee, he still helps out by attending events such as fetes for the Legion.

The family’s links with the Legion are as strong as ever with son Dave and his wife Emma acting as standard bearers for the Lydney branch and son Stan is a Poppy Appeal organiser.

Mr Rudge’s grand-daughter Abi is also “mascot” for the Lydney branch.