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Arkell’s brews special beer to mark 100 years of the Poppy Appeal

Swindon brewer Arkell’s has created a new beer named Contemptibles in tribute to The Royal British Legion – and its Poppy Appeal – which celebrate their 100th anniversary this year.

The name of the beer is inspired by the nickname given to the British expeditionary force which served in France and Flanders in 1914.

Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany reportedly issued an order to “Exterminate…the treacherous English and walk over… the contemptible little army.” Veterans subsequently dubbed themselves The Old Contemptibles.

The Arkell family’s military connection can be dated back to current chairman James Arkell’s great-great-great-grandfather who joined the Second Wiltshire Rifle Corps in 1888.

Sir Noel Arkell, and Graham Arkell fought in World War 1 in 1914 and survived, although Noel returned wounded having been shot in the shoulder.

They both feature on the beers pump clip design.

Noel’s sons James and Peter fought in World War 2. James served with the Gurkhas in Burma and Java, where he was killed in action at the devastatingly early age of 26.

His brother, Peter Arkell, served in the RAF, flying Lysanders into France under cover of darkness to retrieve secret agents by moonlight.

He later transferred to Burma where he completed many landings behind Japanese lines. After a serious crash behind enemy lines he was finally invalided out of the RAF.

Current chairman James Arkell was in the Territorial Army and has commanded The Royal Yeomanry Regiment. He is president of Swindon Branch Royal British Legion.

“We have beer and military service running through the family veins, from my great-great-great-grandfather to my son John, who served in Afghanistan,” said James.

Contemptibles was created by head brewer Alex Arkell, who said: “We’ve used chocolate malt for the dark colour, which also adds warm roasted and sweet tones, with a light hop aroma to compliment.

“At four percent this is considered strong for a mild, but this way we get a little more flavour into the lighter bodied beer.”

George and Alex Arkell were joined at The Tawny Owl pub by Swindon Branch RBL chairman Graham Jackson, vice chairman and treasurer Phil Nobbs, and Poppy Appeal organiser April Porter to toast the new ale which is available in participating Arkell’s pubs now.

George Arkell said “The Royal British Legion is a fantastic charity, which we love to support.

“This year we are an official sponsor of their centenary cookbook Cooking with Heroes with a page dedicated to our brewery amongst the delicious recipe ideas from acting or former members of the military.”

The book is available online at: or from Arkell’s Grape & Grain Wine & Brewery Warehouse.

Pictured: George Arkell, April Porter, Graham Jackson, Phil Nobbs and Alex Arkell