‘I didn’t want to look the Queen in the eye’

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The Milburn family are used to hearing daughter Alice singing around the house – in fact it seems like she rarely stops.

Since she was three and the neighbours commented on how lovely she sounded singing to herself in the garden, Alice has been filling the house with music.

Alice Milburn is one of the Poppy Girls

Alice Milburn is one of the Poppy Girls

‘It’s pretty constant,’ laughs mum Nicola. ‘Sometimes her brother gets a little bit fed up with it, but I think we’d all miss it really. You get the feeling that the house comes alive.’

But the Milburns still can’t get used to the fact that 13-year-old Alice has sung before a television audience of six million and a live audience of 6,000 including the Queen.

The Southsea teenager was selected from more than 1,200 entries to become one of the Poppy Girls – daughters of services personnel who sang at this year’s Festival of Remembrance.

Their moving song The Call (No Need To Say Goodbye) was released as a fundraising single and an album came out yesterday.

Alice’s mum and dad, Nicola and Philip, and 16-year-old brother Laurence were in the audience at the Royal Albert Hall when Alice and the four other Poppy Girls sang under the spotlight.

The occasion which honours services personnel who have lost their lives and the work of those still serving is incredibly moving and Nicola had already shed a tear before her daughter took centre stage.

‘They showed this video of a lady who had lost her son in Afghanistan and then she was leading the widows in so I cried then,’ says the mum, who served in the RAF and now works for Hampshire Constabulary.

Of course she was also incredibly nervous for her daughter. ‘When it’s your child doing something like that you feel like you’re having to perform. My heart was beating very very fast.’

Dad Philip is a captain in the navy and says it was one of the most fantastic moments of his life.

‘We’re very proud of both of our children,’ says Philip, going on to describe how he felt at the festival.

‘That whole evening is a great occasion and very moving anyway.

‘My father was in the RAF, my grandfather was in the army and I’ve been in the navy for nearly 30 years.

‘I’ve always watched the Festival of Remembrance and wanted to go so that was a great honour in itself.

‘But to be there and see your daughter perform. It’s something that will stay with me for a very long time.’

Alice describes her experience as ‘magical’ although understandably she had worries.

The Mayville High School pupil was concerned about making eye contact with the Queen while she was singing.

‘I didn’t want to look her in the eye. Then what do you do while you’re singing away. I mean “awkward”,’ says Alice as her parents laugh.

But she also found it moving, particularly when fellow Poppy Girl Megan Adams’ dad appeared at the end of the performance and the 10-year-old ran across the hall and leaped into his arms.

Megan’s dad Billy had been serving in the Indian Ocean and was flown home for the occasion as a surprise.

‘We’d heard so much about him that we were all crying and hugging too,’ says Alice.

The Poppy Girls, who also include 10-year-old Florence Ransom from Petersfield, have become like family over a whirlwind four months, says Alice.

The Milburn family entered talented Alice, who also plays the piano and ukulele, for the opportunity after seeing an advert in a navy publication.

A nerve-racking audition process has been followed by amazing experiences including recording the single and album and taking part in Poppy Appeal events.

One of those was visiting 10 Downing Street and selling David Cameron a poppy.

Nicola was with Alice and the other girls and parents. She says; ‘It was quite funny when George Osborne came in. He said to the girls “I’ve heard the song, it’s great” and you could tell they were thinking ‘who’s that?’, although we parents obviously knew. He said “don’t worry about me, I’m just the next door neighbour”.’

The girls also rode on a Poppy Appeal bus with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who then got off to meet some people selling poppies at High Street Kensington tube station.

‘It was really funny. People were coming out of Marks and Spencer with their shopping bags and couldn’t believe it,’ says Alice. ‘You could see them getting their phones and cameras out.’

The girls also did a photoshoot with Olly Murs for Radio Times and met boy band Union J at the Poppy Appeal launch.

The Poppy Girls are fronting a campaign to encourage families and friends to send compilation CDs and playlists to family members deployed abroad over the Christmas period.

They have produced an album of cover songs dedicated to people serving overseas.

All the tracks on the album have been selected as holding special significance between serving father and daughter.

To launch the campaign, the girls have pledged to send every British military unit deployed overseas a free copy of the album, No Need to Say Goodbye, which was released yesterday.

A proportion of the sales go to the charity, which organises the Poppy Appeal in memory of services personnel who have lost their lives.

The Royal British Legion is the nation’s leading armed forces charity providing care and support to members of the forces and their families.

Visit britishlegion.org.uk or call (08457) 725725 for information.