Welfare Tours 2016

21November - 01 December 2016
Secretary General


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.
As we move closer to the Cape Town Conference in 2021, to commemorate our 100 years of support to ex-service men, women and widows to the British Crown from across the Commonwealth, it is certain that The South African Legion of Military Veterans will continue to benefit from our support. RCEL do not routinely give the South African Legion (SAL) of Military Veterans an annual welfare grant as there are only a handful of WWII veterans who served in British Units left alive. In 2016 the SAL identified six WWII who were still surviving and RCEL provided an annual grant of £150 to each of them. Almost all welfare contact between our 2 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 the amount distributed had risen to £170,683.

Gaz Barlow on the left with Moses Khumalo, a WWII Veteran who served with 1997 Pioneer Company from 1943-45.  Next to him is Daisy Holmes, the Widow of Willie Holmes the former Chairman of Umsizi, followed by the Secretary General


Umsizi, the Ex-servicemen’s Welfare Association of Swaziland joined RCEL in 1984.  Previously it had been assisted by the British Army Training Team which ceased when the team was withdrawn in late 1995.  Since October 2007 Mr Gary (Gaz) Barlow has assumed responsibility for the welfare of the veterans.  RCEL last visited in 2009 so the visit in 2016 was timely. There are 31 eligible veterans still alive (there were 53 during the last visit in 2009).  Umsizi is one of the few of our Member Organisations that only helps ex-servicemen and not widows. This is their decision as they believe it is too difficult to confirm eligibility as there are often multiple ‘wives’ who do not have a marriage certificate. The committee decided in the mid 1990s that no widow should receive welfare grants from RCEL and this remains their policy. Every veteran receiving grants is visited at least twice a year. Strict assessment of need is carried out. The Secretary General was informed that one Veteran was hoping to make the trip to collect his grant but due to ill health was not able to leave his home. It was decided to drive to his home, in a rural location, several kilometres cross country, and deliver his grant in person. Fortunately Gaz Barlow has a 4 wheel drive vehicle which was up to the task. The Secretary General surprised Sijingo Zwane and his family when they arrived.  His wife could not believe it and spent some time singing them a welcome song. Sijingo is blind but there is little chance that a qualified optician will be able to visit such a remote house and certify his blindness. Blind Veterans have agreed to support him as we could confirm his blindness. Gaz Barlow and his wife are a great team and shortly after the Secretary General left Swaziland they were busy distributing, in person, Christmas Food Hampers to each of the 31 Veterans. It would take them 2 days. RCEL are fortunate to have them and it was heartening to hear that they believe they will remain in Swaziland for the foreseeable future to support the last pre-idependence Veteran.

The Secretary General with Sijingo Zwane


The Ex-Servicemen’s League of Zambia is the only organisation that is recognised by the Zambia Government to look after the affairs of the officers and soldiers who have/are retired from the Zambia Defence Forces.

Its Headquarters is in Lusaka in the Burma Memorial Hall. It was in 1994 that the Government directed the Ministry of Defence to establish the Ex-Servicemen’s League Directorate to liaise and improve the wellbeing of the organisation and to act as the linkage between the organisation and the Government.

This is similar to the process we have adopted in other African Countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.  It is much needed in Zambia as the members of ESLZ are now too old to effectively process and distribute welfare grants to eligible veterans.

Our Council Member, Lt Col Mike Reeve-Tucker OBE lives in Lusaka and oversees, guides and advises the ESLZ Committee.

A number of Veterans and one Widow were met during the visit, including on the left, from left to right, Cpl Simwinga, Sgt Lunga and Cpl Khosa who attended the 31st RCEL Conference in Malta in 2012.  Mrs Ennessi Mulenga Kampute is the Widow of WO2 Allam Kampute.

From left to right,CplSimwinga, Stg Lunga and Cpl Khosa who attended the 31st RCEL Conference in Malta 2012

A number of Veterans and one Widow were met during the visit, including on the left, from left to right, Cpl Simwinga, Sgt Lunga and Cpl Khosa who attended the 31st RCEL Conference in Malta in 2012.  Mrs Ennessi Mulenga Kampute is the Widow of WO2 Allam Kampute and proudly displays his medals.


The Commonwealth Ex-Services League of Malawi (CELOM) was last visited in June 2013.  During this latest Tour the Secretary General was accompanied by the Defence Adviser, Colonel Ian Mills MBE.

Since the last visit, CELOM consolidated its position and embarked on a programme to identify veterans across Malawi. This has been an extremely successful process and from a position where RCEL supported 30 veterans in Homes in Zomba and Lilongwe we now reach over 400 across the country. This has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of the RCEL Welfare Grant, which is entirely justified.

There are 2 groups of Memorial Homes occupied by elderly ex-servicemen; in Lilongwe (10 houses in Kamuzu Barracks with 1 occupied by a RCEL veteran) and Zomba (50 houses just outside Cobbe Barracks with 16 occupied by RCEL veterans). To the left is the Zomba Homes Committee with some of the resident Veterans.

The homes are of solid red brick construction and have held up well since their construction in 1958.  The Lilongwe Homes have electricity and the Zomba Homes now also have a regular supply. This is an improvement on 2013. The cost of electricity is paid by the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) as 32 of the houses are occupied by married serving members of the MDF and another 5 by single soldiers of the MDF.

The Zomba Homes Committee with some of the resident Veterans.

SSgt James Maputa a residents of the Homes
Pte Jauma Matola a residents of the Homes

21 February - 7 March 2016
Mr Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce is the RCEL Council Member for Burma. This visit was an opportunity for him to meet with Naw Jercy, our volunteer and co-ordinator in Yangon, visit veterans and widows in Yangon and purchase a computer for Naw Jercy and the Rev Cung Hup, our volunteer in Kalaymyo, Chin State. He also travelled to Pyin Oo Lwin to visit Captain Arthur Andrews and Sham Pandi and distribute grants to veterans and widows in the area. He then moved to Kalaymyo in Chin State, an area that representatives from the RCEL have not visited for sometime, to meet veterans and widows in the area. He had a very busy trip.

Saw Nogie who is 98 years old (with his wife) and resides in the Yangon area. He is very lively and very deaf, stating ‘I can read English. I can read Burmese. But I can’t hear any of them’! He saw service in India, Myitkyina and Putao (which he stated was ‘very dangerous’)
as a Wireless Operator.

Saw Ray Po, a 97 year-old onetime Air Force engineer who had been on oxygen for 6 months, was very poorly. His daughter said he was unable to speak but he could hear what was said. I told him what his service had meant to people like my father, the lives he would have saved, how much RCEL appreciated his efforts during the war, and how much it meant to me to be with him now. He pulled himself round and mouthed ‘thank you’. A very moving moment.

In the Gurkha Temple in Pyin Oo Lwin the bright-eyed elderly Widows in their best robes, sat on the left and the smaller number of men, in tough and warm clothing, sat on the right eagerly awaiting the distribution of grants by Robert Bruce and Captain Andrews.

A number of beneficiaries were unable to attend the Gurkha Temple to receive their grants and so a number of home visits were made, including a bedridden widow, Sundri Raysamlel, widow of Ray. She had a photograph of her husband and his comrades by her bed.

In Chin State we visited an 89 yearold widow, Nibun, widow of Hrang Hley, who served 5 years with the Chin Levies. Reverend Cung Hup said, ‘I knew her husband but he has died’. Hrang Hley served in the Western Chin Levies and fought the war in Chin State. ‘His master was Major Manning’, says Cung Hup. Nibun is cared for by her children.


17-27 OCTOBER 2016
Controller Finance

The Indian Ex-Services League (IESL) in Delhi was formed in 1964 and has representation in all of the 28 States. It was formally recognised by the Government of India in 2001 but does not receive any funding. There are approximately 500,000 ex-servicemen, widows and dependents that have life membership and pay a one-off subscription fee. The main aim of the League is to assist ex-service personnel and their dependants in matters relating to pensions, allowances, grants, war gratuities, resettlement and rehabilitation in close cooperation with the Government of India. The RCEL work carried out by the League represents a small percentage of their overall workload. The number of RCEL eligible veterans and widows now totals 12,100 compared to 13,800 in 2012. RCEL directly assisted 2,492 beneficiaries in 2016. Controller Finance attended an IESL rally at Neemrana University in the State of Rajasthan where he was welcomed in the traditional Indian fashion and met a significant number of our veterans and widows.

The ESA (Chennai) has a rented office in the Friends in Need Society (FINS) building which is situated in its own compound in the centre of Chennai. As with Bangalore, the number of beneficiaries had dropped by nearly 50% since the last visit in 2012 and there were only 33 veterans and widows now requiring assistance.

Captain Bala operates a very efficient office and is devoted to assisting our needy beneficiaries. The ESA is clearly held in high regard by all of the beneficiaries who receive regular visits from the Chairman when he also delivers grant cheques.

Subedar Amir Singh who is 96 years old. He served with the Indian Artillery and was deployed in Burma where he defended an area that was being cleared for an airfield. He recalled that they came under attack by Japanese planes but managed to defend themselves successfully, destroying a large number of aircraft in the process.

Two of our beneficiaries, one veteran and a widow were living in Oorgaum which Controller Finance assumed would be in the local vicinity of Bangalore but it turned out to be a 120km, 3 hour long “white knuckle” car journey. However, the journey proved to be very worthwhile. Controller Finance met ex-Sgt Dhanikachalam (pictured left) who is 96 years old, served with the India Signal Corps and saw service in Ceylon, Burma and Singapore. His living conditions were squalid but he appeared to be well looked after by 3 generations of his family. He produced photos of his Army days and he was staunchly proud to have served the Crown. He was asked about his longevity and he responded “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke but I invest in the bible!”

Mrs Marie Desmier is one of our beneficiaries who served in the Auxiliary Nursing Service from May 1942 to May 1946. She served at the Assam/ Burma Border and received the Burma Star. She married Mr Desmier in 1945 and they had 3 children. Unfortunately, her husband deserted her in 1951 leaving her to fend for herself and the young children. She worked as a nurse to support her family. She is now 90 years old and currently resides in Nurses Associationnaccommodation. The Financial Controller is seen presenting Mrs Desmier with her monthly grant which is provided jointly by the Burma Star Association and RCEL.
Seated is Mrs Joyce Cobb who is 97 years old. She was brought to the rally by her daughter and granddaughter. Her husband served as a Gunner between 1941 and 1943. Mrs Cobb retired from her role as a primary school teacher at the age of 80.
There are 15 widows and 2 ex-servicemen who are supported by RCEL in Bangalore and directly cared for by the Ex-Services Association (ESA) in Chennai. The numbers have reduced by almost 50% since the last RCEL visit in 2012. Captain Bala Singh, Chairman of ESA Chennai, had travelled overnight by train from Chennai in order to escort Controller Finance whilst visiting veterans and widows.

Mrs Halimbi’s husband had served in the Indian Army Service Corps between 1943-47. She was presented with her RCEL grant. She was deeply grateful and asked Controller Finance to thank those in London who were responsible for sending the funding.

On the left is Mrs Dubier who has been supported by RCEL and ESA Chennai for many years. She had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour and she was in a semi conscious state when the Financial Controller visited. She was being cared for by her daughter who could not afford to purchase Mrs Dubier’s full compliment of medicine. RCEL provided an Emergency Grant of £100 for general assistance to Mrs Dubier.

To the left is Pte Connors, now aged 91 who served with the Madras Guards between 1941-44. He could recall being part of an escort duty to Sri Lanka. He lives with his daughter and is in reasonable health. The
monthly grant provided by RCEL ensures that he has a little dignity in his twilight years.

18-29 JANUARY 2016
Controller Welfare


ittle has changed since the last visit in 2011, other than a reduction in the number of RCEL eligible veterans and widows. The Nigerian Legion still have over 120,000 members, of whom
1,028 (7,895 in 2011) are pre-Independence veterans. The Secretary General, Captain John Adole, is quite excellent and runs the organisation extremely well. He has been in post for almost 30 years but intends to retire by 2018 and the search for his successor is underway.

Large numbers of Nigerians fought with the 81st and 82nd (West African) Divisions in Burma alongside Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneons, but it is not known how many Burma Star holders are still alive in Nigeria. A survey conducted in 2009 suggests the number is around 250; realistically, this figure is probably below 100 now.

The Nigerian Legion continues to gain income from a number of sources. A security business which now employs over 300 exservicemen and the rental of office space in their own building in Abuja provides the bulk of their income. They also receive income from Emblem Day (Remembrance Sunday). Government grants and donations have reduced significantly over the past years and are now insignificant.

During the visit to the Legion HQ the issue of veterans in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps was raised; the SCOWP LIBOR grant that had been issued in October 2015 had been used to fund the purchase of rice and maize which had been distributed to the veterans in the camps.

In addition to the displaced persons in the North East, Captain Adole indicated that there was also a big issue with the displacement of veterans in the North Central region. He had identified a large number of Legion members, including 65 RCEL beneficiaries in this region who were now residing in the IDP camps and required additional assistance. It was agreed that these 65 Veterans should also receive similar support to those in the North East and a grant of £2,275 was provided to purchase essential food items.
Captain John Adole presenting Pte Male Ture (left) and Sgt Todi Sogavi (centre) with rice and maize.

They are currently resident in the IDP camps in the North East region of Nigeria

Captain John Adole and Controller Welfare with Mrs Sidikat Abbas who is the widow of Pte Gboladeh Abbas who served in the Middle East and Burma; he had died in 2002. She was in attendance with her family who had escorted her on the 4 hour journey to visit the Legion and
receive her grant


The Veterans’ Administration of Ghana (VAG) was last visited by the Secretary General in 2011 and readers of the annual report will be aware of the very successful RCEL Conference held in Accra in July 2008. The VAG continues to run 10 regional headquarters.

Each has a conference/community centre with a small restaurant and guest accommodation, all of which can be hired to the local population and produces an important source of welfare income. They have 2 minibuses and 2 large coaches in Accra and a pick up truck in each regional office.

Additional income is derived from the VAG Guard Services, leasing out their property and hiring the hearse/ambulance which had been procured using funds provided by RCEL in 2007. The original hearse was approaching the end of its working life and was restricted to use within Accra. An RCEL grant of £20,000 was authorised in October 2015 as part of the LIBOR grants to enable the purchase of a replacement hearse, which was delivered in mid 2016 and officially handed to VAG on behalf of the RCEL by the DA to the British High Commission, Lt Col Simon Westlake RM.

The Legion Village in Amasaman now looks after 12 veterans and a number of family members who qualify to live with and support them. Everything within the Village is provided free of charge by VAG. There was only one WWII Veteran in occupation during this particular visit, Sgt Clement Yirenkyi Awuku; the others had returned to their families for the Christmas period and had not yet returned to the village.

In 2011 a grant of £2,500 was provided by RCEL for a ‘fresh water project’. The project was completed in October 2012 and officially opened by the British High Commissioner.

During this visit the completed project was inspected and found to be well maintained and in good working order.

Within the Amasaman Village there is a clinic offering basic medical treatment to occupants. In 2014 an organisation called Forces Help Ghana (FHG) were instrumental in obtaining replacement hospital beds from a clinic in Gutersloh, Germany. FHG requested assistance with the cost of transportation to Ghana. RCEL with the assistance of funding provided by The Royal British Legion and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity facilitated the movement of 15 beds to Accra. Controller Welfare inspected the new beds that have really made a positive impact on the clinic facilities.

During the visit the Battle of Myohaung was remembered with a Drumhead service and parade in Takoradi. This was an historic day for the Royal West African Frontier Force.

Two WWII veterans were in attendance: Pte Isaac Bordoh (above) and LCpl Joshua Ennin, 93 years of age, (left), who joined the RWAFF in January 1942 and served as Assistant QM in his battalion. He deployed to Lagos for training in August 1942, sailed to Cape Town via Durban before crossing the Indian Ocean to Bombay followed by road transport to Calcutta before deploying into Burma. In Burma he was attached to a Nigerian Battalion within 81st Division.
Lt Col Simon Westlake, RM DA to the BHC Accra,
presenting the new Hearse to Commodore
Steve Obimpeh, Chairman of VAG

Sgt Clement Yirenkyi Awuku with his wife.
He was the only veteran in residence during the visit.
Clement is 95 years of age and served in Burma

Controller Welfare inspects the new beds

Isaac Bordoh who served with the
West African Air Corps from 1944 to 1949.

He is now 92 years of age and quite frail,
requiring assistance to walk

The new hearse

The water project

LCpl Joshua Ennin


This welfare Tour was originally planned for August 2014. However, the Tour was postponed until the country was declared Ebola free in November 2015. During the crisis we remained in constant touch with the SLESA Secretary General, Lt Col Fatorma Gottor, in order to support the veterans affected. During the crisis RCEL provided additional funding amounting to £2,700 that was used to supply food parcels to 78 of the most needy veterans.

There is no doubt that this welfare had made a real difference and there was genuine and heartfelt thanks to RCEL from the veterans for supporting them during this dreadful period.

The Sierra Leone Ex-Services Association (SLESA) was last visited by the Secretary General in August 2011. There are 12 Branches throughout the Country. Each branch is now active with volunteer ex- Servicemen holding official positions and representing the Veterans within their
districts. The Kailahun Branch is located some 350 miles and a 2 day drive away from Freetown, highlighting the difficulty SLESA has in interacting with their veterans.

In 2015, 98 veterans and 22 widows had been supported financially by RCEL. A number of veterans made the journey to Freetown for a meeting in the SLESA office. One of those veterans was Pte Pessima Lamboi who arrived late for the meeting but he had travelled from
Moyamba District with his daughter, which was some distance. He had been recruited in the Provinces in 1939 and taken to Freetown prior to further training in Lagos before
deploying to Burma, arriving in 1943. He was wounded in battle and suffered two gunshot wounds to his abdomen. Pte Lamboi had been an Orderly to Colonel Carter and returned to Sierra Leone in 1947.

Representations were made by one of the WWII veterans, Sgt Sorie Samuel Sesay who enlisted in 1932 and joined the 1st Battalion, Sierra Leone Regiment. In 1939 he was sent to Lagos with his Battalion and undertook 5 months training before being deployed to Burma, firstly by ship via Cape Town to Bombay, then by land to Calcutta then into Burma. He remembers most vividly the action in the Arakan Valley and had been promoted to Sergeant by the end of the war. He returned to Sierra Leone in 1946. He is now 103 years old.

RCEL assisted SLESA with 2 projects in 2016, the construction of a Poultry Farm in Matindi
(approximately 24 miles SE of Freetown) which will provide financial support to our veterans and the provision of a replacement vehicle. Good relations with the DA to the BHC in Freetown and DiFID resulted in the provision of a nearly new Toyota Hi-Ace Minibus for £7,000.
Sgt Sorie Samuel Sesay

Pte Pessima Lamboi
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