Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2016
The production of the Annual Report each year is always a time for reflection. When I was appointed Chairman of SCOWP in 2012, RCEL supported over 12,700 ex-servicemen, women and widows; in 2016 I can report that we assisted 9,835, a reduction of more than 22% over a four year period. It is very sad to see so many of our beneficiaries passing away but of course it is not unexpected.
We should also be mindful, however, that new eligible veterans are still being discovered. Due to the excellent work carried out by Denis Lewis and General Buxton Namwali and his team in Malawi there are now an additional 264 who have been discovered in the last 12 months.
You will see the story about Pippa Doyle who served her country during WW2 and, in contrast, the assistance provided to John Amanyire in Uganda – three generations apart but both benefitting from the service provided by RCEL. Of course, John is a very good example of what the future holds for The League.
2016 was an exceptional year for RCEL in many ways. The Conference in Kuala Lumpur was a great success; it was my first Conference as Chairman of SCOWP and I was able to report on the great work that the League had accomplished in the previous 4 years. The total welfare expenditure from all sources during the period 2012 to 2015 was over £7.8m compared with just short of £6.5m for the previous 4 years. We continued this upward trend in 2016 and it was yet again a record year in terms of welfare disbursement with over £3.07M being distributed throughout the world.
Although we have seen a significant reduction in the numbers of beneficiaries, it is also true that people are living longer than expected, more people are falling into the poverty trap and seeking our help, and finally costs, particularly of basic food and medical treatment are rising steeply. These issues have been with us for some time and are set to remain with us in the foreseeable future.
One of the keys to understanding local issues and therefore achieving success has in part been our Headquarters’ tour programme. The purpose of the tours should be viewed as key welfare visits but also to act as an audit of our beneficiaries and the effective distribution of our funds. I would like to thank all of our Member Organisations who have hosted visits over the years; their cooperation and support contributes to the overall success of the SCOWP Committee’s work. During 2016, 10 member countries were visited; these reports are detailed elsewhere in this report, including a report by Mr Robert Bruce (Council Member for Burma) who visited Burma; we thank him for his time and effort. During all the tours it was noted that the current currency exchange rate has had a negative impact on ‘buying power’.
The Royal Canadian Legion is gratefully acknowledged for their generosity in 2016, contributing over £162,000 of welfare support to Member Organisations in the Caribbean. Other Founder Members also contributed significantly with The Returned & Services League of Australia providing over £45,000 and The Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association assisting a number of beneficiaries throughout that country. Blind Veterans UK are thanked for their continued support to our blind veterans overseas, a total of 248.
This particular case highlights the assistance we receive from British Embassies, High Commissions, Consuls and, particularly Defence Sections. Without the support of Defence Attachés, some of the most vulnerable veterans and widows would not receive any assistance. It is just one of many that are part of our ‘Agency Work’. In 2016 we distributed 1,290 grants totalling over £750,000 on behalf of some 40 UK based charities.
We are living in uncertain times but regardless of how the world economy performs, it is always the poorest who suffer more than the affluent. RCEL is fortunate that our resources have improved in recent years with the LIBOR award, but even so we still cannot provide much more than that which is sufficient for daily survival and we will continue to rely upon all our donors’ and partners’ support into the foreseeable future.
Our Conference in Kuala Lumpur showed that Member Organisations are resilient and resourceful and with your continued support we feel sure that whatever happens to world economies we will be able to continue with our task of helping those who served the Crown prior to their country’s independence.
THE GENERATION GAP
A World War II Heroine
Mrs Phyllis Latour Doyle, formerly Phyllis Latour, was born on 8 April 1921 in Durban, South Africa and worked as a secret agent for Special Operations Executive (SOE) from 23 September 1943 until 7 July 1945. She was a Leading Aircraft Women (LACW) in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, when she was seconded to the SOE. She then received training in the SOE Special Training School, including parachute and wireless training. She was given an honorary commission as Acting Section Officer (9909) as from 31st March 1944 and then was promoted to Section Officer on 16 June 1944. On 1st May 1944, she parachuted into Normandy to act as W/T operator for an SOE/Maquis Circuit (“SCIENTIST”) with the Nom de Guerre “GENEVIEVE”. She carried out her duties with great courage in circumstances of formidable danger until her Circuit was over-run by advancing American troops. She remained in France until 9th October 1944. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France on 16th January 1946 and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE Military) on 4th September 1954. In 2014 she was awarded the French Legion of Honour for services to France in WWII. With the assistance of the NZSAS, Pippa Doyle was also awarded on 25 November 2014 the Medal of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for her actions during WWII. Still living independently in New Zealand at the age of 96 years, she required assistance with repairs to her house and the RAFBF and RCEL Argyll Fund) were delighted to be able to assist.
The Contemporary Serviceman
The case of John Amanyire was brought to our attention by Veterans Aid (UK). John served with the Royal Signals and Royal Logistic Corps in the TA from 2008 to 2016.
In mid 2016 he had to return to Uganda when his visa application failed. John’s wife and children live on the outskirts of Kampala in Katemu Village. They were living temporarily with his father-in-law in one room. John had not been able to find employment and was unable to provide the basic necessities for his family. Herbert Kamyuka, our representative with the Uganda Ex-Servicemen’s Association, was asked to investigate the situation and provide a report that was submitted to the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, RLC AT and the RSBF. Each of them provided a significant grant to enable John to find his feet in the short term, provide for his family and to seek employment.