Welfare Tours 2015

10 - 20 November 2015
Secretary General


In Zimbabwe RCEL works with ZANE (Zimbabwe a National Emergency) which was founded by Tom Benyon in 2005 after becoming involved with the provision of help to the widow of a Zimbabwe farmer murdered by the “veterans of the revolution”. Joined by Baroness Park of Monmouth they co-ordinated the immediate funding of grants for those old people who found themselves in desperate circumstances in Zimbabwe.  Their successful fundraising campaign ensured that those most desperate received help.  The ZANE team, now ably led by Lynda Crafter, have managed to distribute over £1.5 million of welfare grants, on behalf of RCEL and other military charities over the last 5 years.

The aim of the Secretary General’s 48 hour visit was to:

• Ensure welfare procedures between RCEL and ZANE were effective and agreeable to both parties

• Visit Care Homes and ex-service men and widows receiving welfare grants (both RCEL and “Agency” grants)

• Strengthen relationships with British Embassy

• Thank the ZANE team for the tremendous work they do in the most difficult circumstances

• Get a first hand feel for the situation so as to re-assure those other military charities in the UK that the significant amounts of money they contribute in welfare grants is being well spent.

The work that RCEL and other UK Military charities carry out in Zimbabwe is vitally important, and the amount of our annual welfare grant is unlikely to be reduced in the near future.  The adoption of the US$ has helped everyone budget and plan, but has significantly increased the cost of everything, especially those living in the Care Homes.  Without the dedicated ZANE team in UK and in Zimbabwe we would not be able to reach those who need our help the most.

Westreign Care Home:
Phyllis DeSimone (left) who has been in the Home for 21 years.  She served in the WAAF between 1944-1948.  Phyllis is supported with a grant from the RAFBF. Carolus Matthew Kriel (2nd right) who had served in the RN 1944 - 1945 on HMS Queen Elisabeth and had been in the Home for 13 years.  Matthew is supported with a grant from the RNBT.

During the previous RCEL Tour to Zimbabwe the Secretary General was able to visit Doug and Val Dabbs.  Doug’s obituary featured in the 2014 Annual Report.  However, the Secretary General was able to visit Val who was in good heart and health given her 91 years of age.  Val was given 12 hours to leave their large farm they had built from scratch after World War 2 and is supported by her son who still lives in Zimbabwe. Val is supported by the RAFBF and has a carer, Grace, who has been with her for 27 years.

At a Remembrance Reception hosted by the British Ambassador, the Secretary General was able to meet with 3 of The Rhodesian African Rifles veterans who had come to London earlier in the year and took part in the commemoration of the new RAR Memorial at The National Memorial Arboretum.  Tobias Moutangadura, Gibson Mugadza and Obert Weremu were all in good heart and appreciated the vital support provided by RCEL SCOWP.


During the Welfare Tour to Zimbabwe in 2012 by the Secretary General it was suggested that RCEL might be able to investigate eligible beneficiaries in Botswana.  During an earlier visit by The Princess Royal and the DA it was clear that there were a number of pre-independence veterans who fought for the British Crown who were still alive in Botswana.  Up until this visit RCEL had not operated in Botswana so a fact finding mission was conducted to confirm the situation.
With the combined support of the DA, Colonel Ian Mills, the British High Commissioner to Botswana, his PA and Harold Lee, an ex-Parachute Regiment soldier, much was achieved in 2 days.
The visit exceeded expectations.  Not only was the Botswana Department of Social Protection aware of the WW2 veterans, they were also prepared to help distribute through the District Officers, RCEL welfare grants to those on their ‘destitute’ list.  Since the Secretary General’s visit it has been confirmed that there are 106 WW2 Veterans alive and well; these ex-servicemen will be considered for financial support in 2016.

Eight WWII veterans (front row) and carers (rear row) with Col Ian Mills and Mr Harold Lee.  They were a wonderful group of veterans and the Secretary General was able to make an immediate welfare payment of £75 to each one of them.  They were all extremely grateful for the grant but were more grateful that a serving British Colonel (The DA was in uniform for this visit) and RCEL had remembered them and their service to the Crown.  They became quite emotional when it was explained that a visitor had come from London.  They all said it was more important to be remembered than receive the grant.


South Africa is one of the Founder Members of the League and South Africa hosted the inaugural Meeting in the City Hall, Cape Town on 21 February 1921.  The aim of the South African Legion is to provide care, employment and housing for veterans and widows.  Former National Servicemen and those who were part of the Armed Struggle are assisted with advice and direction.

We do not give the South African Legion of Military Veterans an annual welfare grant.  All welfare contact between our two organisations involves individual welfare applications for British ex-servicemen and widows resident in South Africa, and the subsequent administration of grants made by British service charities.  This “Agency” work has increased greatly in the last few years.  Thirteen years ago we processed grants for 62 cases which totalled £18,775.  Last year these figures had risen to 92 cases totalling £203,450.

The South African Legion is highly efficient and has been successful in dealing with the increasing number of individual welfare cases.  It deserves our encouragement if it is to carry out its remit to care for the many veterans remaining and in need of its support.

The Secretary General visited a community centre/chapel in Soweto that is funded by the SA Legion to help support black veterans in need.  He met the staff who were committed and grateful for RCEL support.

The Secretary General was able to locate one WW2 veteran who had served in the Pioneer/Labour Force as part of the British Army.  There are very few left alive and indeed only 6 in the whole of Soweto.  Cpl Solomon Maisela (N36013) proudly showed me his medals and in the middle of his ANC and Russian medals was his British WWII Defence medal.  He served between 1939 - 1945 and is 93 years old. It was agreed to provide an annual welfare grant to the 6 veterans.


Prior to Major Ian Sharp’s involvement in the distribution of welfare grants in Tanzania we had little confidence in the governance of our Member Organisation which eventually led to their suspension.  For the last 4 years Ian Sharp has driven over 20,000 kms and personally validated and paid out over 800 veterans across the length and breadth of Tanzania.  This has been a herculean feat and as a direct result hundreds of veterans have received, many for the first time, a welfare grant from RCEL.
Johnson was provided with a welfare payment, for which he was most thankful but he said it was the recognition that mattered more and that he was very grateful for that.
The recent payments were made under what was termed as Phase 1, which had been the identification of all pre-independence eligible veterans and the payment of a grant of about £50 each.  Phase 2 is to set up a system to pay the 890 (or so) without the requirement for Ian Sharp to personally make the payments.  It was agreed that the best way forward was for the Tanzania Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) network of District Training Teams would have responsibility for paying the veterans.  This will work as they have already been involved and were responsible for arranging the pay parades for Ian Sharp.  For this to happen there would be a requirement to transfer bulk grants to the TPDF for them to distribute.  Ian Sharp would then, once a year, visit Tanzania to conduct an audit and visit one location to ensure the grants were being paid to individuals.
Tanzania has been a real success story in recent times and we can now be assured that the hundreds of veterans who served the Crown are receiving the support they deserve.

The Secretary General with Pte Mohamed Johnson Kimbweresa who is 92 years old. He served the British Crown with the East African Signals between Feb 1942 and Jan 1946.  He served in Kenya, Somaliland and Ethiopia.  He said he remembered the Italians surrendering first and then the Germans but the Japanese didn’t give up until the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  He remembers a lot of Italian POWs in Nanyuki (Kenya) who were put to work building roads.  Johnson now lives in the Kilimanjaro Region and is looked after by his son as his wife had died in 2011.

20 - 31 July 2015
Controller Finance


Since the last visit to Belize by Controller Welfare in 2011 the number of veterans and widows has reduced from 54 to 22.  There is no welfare system operating in Belize and all of the veterans and widows are dependent on their monthly grants (£47.60 and £23.80 for veterans and widows respectively) from the Royal Canadian Legion. 

The Sister Cecilia home was included in the visit programme.  This home provides accommodation and welfare support for 50 residents.  It is mainly funded by Help Age International and also the Belize Government.  RCEL has previously assisted financially with certain projects.  Currently, there is only one veteran at the Home.

Mr Stephen Emanuel Webster is the only veteran currently resident at the home.  He is 96 years old and has been cared for at Sister Cecilia’s for the past 19 years.  He was one of those Foresters who deployed with the Scottish Battalion in 1941, returning to Belize in 1944 where he served a further 3 years with the Volunteer Guard.

Mr Roy Cox who is 91 years old and served with the British Honduras Volunteer Guard from 1943 to 1947.  He very proudly wears his medals and would struggle to survive without the assistance provided by the Royal Canadian Legion.  He enjoys the support of his wife and 25 children and Grandchildren who are able to provide moral support but little in the way of financial assistance as they are all living in conditions of abject poverty.


The Trinidad & Tobago Legion was founded in 1945 to assist with the resettlement of veterans returning to the Island having served in the Second World War.  There are two quite distinct local organisations, one for Trinidad and one for Tobago, which are financially independent autonomous organisations.  Both separately receive financial assistance for their veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion.  The recent appointment of a new Executive Committee for Trinidad and the excellent assistance provided by our Council Member, Mr Andrew Holmes, has resulted in great reassurance that our beneficiaries are being cared for appropriately.

There are 45 registered members, including 8 veterans and 6 widows who receive financial support.

Controller Finance with Mr Richard Clarke, 94 years old, who served with the South Caribbean Regiment from 1939-48


Initially the membership of the Guyana Legion was exclusive to those who served during World Wars 1 and II.  There are now 29 surviving veterans of World War II who are in their 90s.  The Legion amended its Constitution to allow veterans who had served in military/police organisations to become members.  Membership has also been extended to wives and children of veterans who can join the Women’s Auxiliary Branch. There are 4 Chapters of the Legion, HQ in Georgetown, East Chapter, Linden Chapter and East Demarara Chapter.

In April 2014 the Guyana Legion merged with the Ex-Guyana Defence Force Association and was renamed the Guyana Veterans’ Legion.   This increased membership from just over 200 to 767.  The Legion is well organised under the strong leadership of Lt Col George Gomes.  He is well assisted with a very active Executive Committee.

The Financial Controller visited Uncle Eddie’s House which had been established in 1965 to house elderly Guyanese veterans and widows without any next of kin.

Mr Lloyd Defreitas aged 91 sitting outside Uncle Eddie’s House. He served with the 1st Battalion Caribbean Regiment for 4 years and 165 days with active WWII service in Italy and Egypt.

1 - 13 February 2015
Controller Welfare

This tour was conducted to consolidate on the work completed by the Secretary General during his previous visit and finalise the organisational structure and processes required to ensure financial assistance to all beneficiaries in Burma is disbursed in the most secure and effective way.

Burma now has a hybrid system of military rule and democracy but the country is still a humanitarian disaster and civil war still ravages the border areas.  The effect of military rule has been a severely impoverished and underdeveloped nation; Burma has been rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index.

Those Veterans and Widows who are eligible for RCEL, Help 4 Forgotten Allies (H4FA) and Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) support are from the Karen, Kachin, Chin and Gurkha ethnic minorities.  A total of just under 300 individual grants were paid during the tour which focused on Yangon, Pyin Oo Lwin and Myitkyina.

Yangon – A number of home visits were made to Karen veterans and widows who are supported by RCEL, H4FA and Seafarers UK.

Pyin Oo Lwin – The beneficiaries of GWT grants are located around the town of Pyin Oo Lwin.  There are currently 8 veterans and 33 widows who are supported.  Most of the beneficiaries came to the Gurkha Temple in the town to collect their grants.

In Pyin Oo Lwin there are also 14 Karen veterans and widows who are directly supported with annual grants from RCEL SCOWP.

Myitkyina – The capital of Kachin State is where the office for the Kachin Veterans Committee is located.  In excess of 500 veterans and widows are believed to be alive and a survey to ascertain exact numbers is still being undertaken.

Saw Po Law who is 94 years of age and lives in a remote area in Hmawbi township.  He served with the Burma Rifles in Kachin and Shan State.  He remembered his Company Commander was Major Woodrow and fighting along side the Sikhs and Punjabi Mussalmans, from the 7th and 8th Battalions, Burma Rifles.

3 - 8 August 2015
Controller Welfare

The Fraternal Union of Cameroon Ex-Servicemen of the Crown (FUCEMOC) has been a great success under the careful guidance of Dick Scott.  It started in 1992 when funds from RCEL were sent to the British High Commission to build an annex to the Limbe Veterans Bar/Club which was to be used as a ‘Guest House’.  In 1994 it was agreed to fund the build of the Bamenda Guest House which was eventually completed and formally opened on 11 November 2002 by the Deputy British High Commissioner.

The objective was to build a fund-generating Guest House in each of the two Provinces with the aim to make the organisation responsible for the welfare of its own veterans and to cater for the time when RCEL was either unable to continue with its grants or when all the veterans of the Crown have died.  During this visit it was identified that both Guest Houses were in poor condition and required refurbishment.

There are currently 112 veterans and widows who receive support from RCEL.
Visits were made to a number of veterans and widows in Limbe and Bamenda areas.

Subsequent to this visit, FUCEMOC was provided with LIBOR funding to refurbish both Guest Houses.  Dick Scott supervised the process and by the end of 2015 the work had been completed.

Cpl Tantoh Takwe who claimed to be 100 years old; he lived with his wife and, fortunately, his son and family lived very close by so he was well supported although there was little income throughout the family.  Tantoh is 85% blind (macular degeneration, not due to cataracts) and a Blind Veterans UK application was in the process of being submitted.  Cpl Takwe served with the RWAFF in Egypt, Jerusalem and South Africa.
RCEL - Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League - Registered Charity No. 1174874 - Haig House, 199 Borough High Street, London SE1 1AA, United Kingdom - Telephone +44 (0)20 3207 2413

Legal Notice - Contact Us