Julia Walker joined the RAF when she was 17.

She had been in the air cadets so it seemed like a natural progression. She moved from Cumbria to the RAF base in Coltishall in Norfolk, and worked mainly in supplies.

She served for five years. It was only many years later, back in Cockermouth, married and a mum of two daughters, that she was diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition.

Called pubic synthesis, it let her unable to walk or take any exercise. It gradually worsened to the point where she was confined to a wheelchair.

“I was struggling with everyday things,” recalls Julia, now 38. “It was hard turning over in bed or just walking up and down the stairs.”

It had never occurred to her that the Royal British Legion could help. She had left the RAF years before so didn’t expect to qualify.

“I thought it was just for people who were long-standing members of the forces, or people who had been injured in war. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t just for wounded soldiers, but for any former members who are struggling.”

Of course helping disabled soldiers is a large proportion of its work. But it’s far from all it does.

The Royal British Legion supports all serving or ex-members of the forces and their families throughout their lives – from children to the oldest veterans, and everyone in between.

Last year it provided financial support to more than 18,000 families, and its nurses were called on 31,000 times to help those caring for a relative with dementia.

Julia had an operation in January 2017 to have her pelvis fused back together, and was bedridden for 12 weeks. But the legion arranged a referral to West Cumbria Carers and she says: “That was a Godsend. They sent people to look after me which meant that my husband, Murray, didn’t have to give up work.

“Had it not been for the legion’s referral, we would have struggled financially as we didn’t have life insurance to cover our mortgage and bills if Murray gave up work. It would have put us into thousands of pounds’ worth of debt.”

The legion also paid £730 towards special adaptations to Julia’s car so that she doesn’t have to use her legs to drive it. Instead, the accelerator and brake are operated by hand with a ring and lever system.

And it paid for a specialist bed sheet which helped Julia to turn over in bed without causing too much pain.

The car adaptations allowed Julia to start work again. She set up and now runs a charity called Lake District Mobility, providing all-terrain mobility scooters to outdoor businesses and visitor attractions.

“It has made a massive difference to us,” Julia reflects.

“If anyone who served in the forces is struggling with some aspect of their life and needs support then they just need to pick up the phone and ask the legion for help. If they can’t provide the support then they will find someone who can.

“They’ve been absolutely excellent in helping my family and me.”

But none of this could be possible without money. That’s where the annual Poppy Appeal comes in.

Last year it raised more than £51m and the aim this year is to exceed that.

It wouldn’t be possible without people either. Around 40,000 volunteers are distributing more than 40m poppies this year.

Of last year’s £51m, more than £750,000 came from the Cumbria and Isle of Man region.

“That broke all records,” said Ellie Smith-Barratt, community fundraiser for the region.

The appeal in Cumbria was launched officially last weekend in Workington town centre. The first poppy was presented to the guest of honour, 93-year-old World War Two veteran Bill Pearson. They remain on sale until Sunday.

Various other fundraising events are scheduled, such as tomorrow’s coffee morning in Carlisle’s Old Town Hall between 10am and midday, with all proceeds going to the poppy appeal.

For any good cause to win support it needs to explain what it does and why it matters. Greater awareness among the public leads to greater generosity.

And Tony Parrini feels that awareness levels are strong

He is a former RAF officer and has been a member of the Royal British Legion for 53 years. He is also secretary of its Carlisle and Stanwix branch, and over his time helping with the poppy appeal he has observed an increase.

The appeal’s year runs from October 1 to September 30 and he says: “On September 30 it had raised £133,000 in Carlisle. That was £16,000 up on the previous year.”

It may be 74 years since the last world war, but since then there have been Korea, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands and Bosnia.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more recent reminders – as are the various anniversaries. This year it was 80 years since the outbreak of World War Two, and last year was the centenary of the end of World War One.

“Next year we have the 75th anniversary of VE Day in May and VJ Day in August. They should also help.”

He adds: “The legion marketing and publicity activity is working. People have got a better understanding of the vital role the armed forces play..”

The misconception that it is primarily a social club for veterans doesn’t apply in Carlisle, Mr Parrini explains. The local branch doesn’t own its own premises, so escapes much of the bureaucracy that would come with managing one.

“We are lucky, because we don’t get distracted from what the British Legion is really all about.

“It is about friendship and camaraderie, yes, but we can get on with the work on welfare, bereavement support or attending funerals.”

Victims of conflict are not just those who are physically injured or disabled. War does psychological damage and he notes an increasing focus on mental health.

And even those who haven’t been traumatised by experience of war can find their state of mind affected afterwards. They find it hard to function without orders.

“Last week I met someone on his first day out of the navy after 31 years,” Ms Smith-Barratt recalls.

“He said: ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I don’t have someone telling me from when I get up what I have to do, where I need to be.’

“Even for somebody who had no experience of fighting, that transition into civilian life can be really difficult.

“That’s why friendship; and camaraderie are important. And it’s something we provide.”