AN armed forces stalwart - who has helped to organise the Remembrance Sunday parade for more than 50 years - is to step down.

Colonel Eric Davidson, 84, has decided to call it a day as the Royal British Legion celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The freeman of the borough has been involved in poppy appeals since the age of 11, when he delivered blooms to outlying farms on his butcher’s bike.

And Colonel Eric, made a Deputy Lord Lieutenant in 2002, is planning to go out on a high.

He said: “My aim this year is to raise more money than we did in 2019, which came to £76,000. It’s a tall task following Covid, but nevertheless a task worth attempting knowing it will be my last one.”

Support from borough residents has always done him proud - donations totalling £500,000 have been made over the past seven years.

Scots-born Colonel Eric is a former chairman of the Fusiliers Association in Lancashire, a trustee of the Fusilier Museum, a member of the Regimental Council in Lancashire and the founder and president of the Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Lancashire). His record saw him named as an MBE in 2008.

He joined the police in Bolton after completing his National Service in 1958, later making Bury his home.

Before his retirement in 1988 he had worked for Lancashire Constabulary and later Greater Manchester Police.

His involvement in remembrance parades dates back to 1967, when he was serving as an accident prevention officer for Bury Police.

Once he had become a Fusilier, in the 1970s, he worked on the famous Krypton Factor course at Holcombe’s training ground.

Capt Harry Whitehead, then the poppy appeal organiser, handed over the reins to Colonel Eric in 1985, due to ill health.

Because the remembrance parade marshal was also stepping down, he also took on this role.

One key challenge came when The Rock was pedestrianised, meaning Eric and his colleagues had to devise an alternative route, taking in Market Place.

He said: “This led to a more open planned event where the public were able to witness the solemnity of the Remembrance Ceremony at the memorial.

“And this year, we will introduce four new display frames to protect the wreaths at the base of the memorial, so that they do not deteriorate quickly in bad weather.

“It is with great sadness that I have decided to retire due to ill health. But at 84 years young I believe it is time also to hand over to a younger person who can take the appeal forward and raise even more money for this very worthy cause.”

Cllr Tim Pickstone, the Mayor of Bury, said: “Colonel Eric has been involved in organising the town’s Remembrance Sunday events for over 50 years and the whole borough is hugely grateful for what he has done.

“The 100th anniversary of the poppy appeal seems a fitting occasion for him to take a well-earned rest, and I’m sure the appeal and remembrance services will be a particularly special occasion.”