Welfare Tours 2018

RCEL HQ staff conduct several Monitoring and Evaluation visits to various commonwealth countries each year
to ensure we meet our FCDO contractual requirements as set out in the AGA.

Tours Secretary General 27 November - 6 December 2018
DOMINICA, JAMAICA AND BELIZE

DOMINICA

One contemporary veteran and four widows had lost their homes during Hurricane Maria. 15 months later it was estimated that only some 20% of homes had been fully rebuilt and repaired. Many residents are either living off island, in less badly damaged relatives homes or 'making do' in their damaged property. Some conditions are terrible and it is remarkable that people have been resilient enough to survive for so long. All had terrifying stories of when the hurricane struck. Quincy Angol hosted the visit and without him our support would not be delivered.

The focus was to visit all five properties needing repair and meet the beneficiaries concerned. Stephen Jean-Baptiste, a contemporary Royal Engineer who served with 36 Engr Regt, aged 72, was living underneath his home as it was being rebuilt above him. He was living in squalor, surviving on tinned food and local fruit.

The four other properties belonged to widows who are eligible for RCEL support having been married to WWII veterans who served with British forces. Three of the four widows were insured but all had a shortfall of varying amounts, to make up.


Dominica is not easy to get to and this visit, although some 15 months after Hurricane Maria, was crucial to ascertain the support required by the five eligible beneficiaries and ensure the local contractors delivered.
Quincy Angol (R) with contractor repairing Stephen Jean-Baptiste’s home

JAMAICA

During much of the visit the Secretary General was accompanied by former Jamaica Defence Force helicopter pilot, Maj Johanna Lewin, Chairman of the Jamaica RAFA and a trustee of the Jamaica Legion.

He was taken to visit Clarence McKenzie RAF a WWII veteran who served in 1944- 46. He is bedbound and cared for by his wife Myrtle and in receipt of support from the RAF BF since 1997. Clarence and his wife live in a rundown house and are reliant on this support.

On the way to the Curphey Home he was able to visit the Manchester Branch of the Jamaica Legion and join their monthly meeting with former RAF WWII veterans.

The Curphey Home had been recently renovated and was in good shape. There had been much improvement to the residents sleeping quarters and ablution blocks.

This was a timely visit to explain the DFID grant, responsibilities and reporting requirements

The Jamaican Legion. Staff, Trustees and veterans

BELIZE

The Belize Ex-Services League (BESL) had been in Administration for over four years. The Belize Chief Elections Officer had controlled the League’s finances for the duration. During this period the National Executive Committee (NEC) had not functioned and no welfare support had been provided by the BESL Committee. Fortunately we were able to arrange with the Royal British Legion Belize Branch for money to be transferred to their account. With the agreement of the Royal British Legion, Ms Valerie Richardson, the Secretary of the BESL, was able to receive funds sent by the Royal Canadian Legion from the RBL Branch and continue welfare distribution.

The Secretary General met the Chief Elections Officer, Mrs Josephine Tamai and thanked her for her careful stewardship of the BESL for over four years but expressed disappointment that elections had not yet been held. She assured him that elections to vote in a new NEC and return control and bank accounts would take place in January.

The Secretary General met the Chief Elections Officer, Mrs Josephine Tamai and thanked her for her careful stewardship of the BESL for over four years but expressed disappointment that elections had not yet been held. She assured him that elections to vote in a new NEC and return control and bank accounts would take place in January.

Cayo on the Guatemala border was next, to visit Mr Novello, 96 years old. He served in the British Honduras Forestry Unit between 1942-45. He was in London in 1942 before moving to Scotland to conduct the forestry work as an ‘Axeman’. He remembers the job being extremely demanding and the weather terrible!

The Secretary General chaired a meeting that all Branches, except for Belize City, attended. Those that arrived at Canada House for the meeting were very pleased to see each other as this was the first occasion in over 4 years that they had met.
Mr Novelo and Valerie Richardson

BUARMA
22-31 January 2018

This was a tour specifically to deliver SCOWP grants to veterans and widows in the Kachin State and pay annual grants from The Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) in Pyin Oo Lwin.

The Secretary General was accompanied by our Senior Audit Manager from Mazars, Miss Katherine Peacock, with the aim of Mazars carrying out an independent audit on RCEL operations and distribution.

H4FA are represented in Rangoon by Naw Jercy. Her father fought in WWII with 12 Burma Rifles and her uncle with Force 136. She supports, mainly, those Karen living in and around Rangoon. Naw Jercy took us to meet eight SCOWP beneficiaries recently paid by H4FA. She also showed us the motorcycle purchased by RCEL to allow her son to drive her around Rangoon to undertake her welfare duties.

Arthur Andrews is an Anglo-Indian born in Rangoon and served initially with a British Anti Aircraft Unit and then Military Intelligence. At the age of 95 he is a veteran of the entire Burma Campaign and despite being wounded by small arms three times, is in excellent health. He knows the locations and situation of both RCEL beneficiaries and former Gurkhas in the Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin areas.

Shyam Pandi’s father was Rfn Padambahadur Chetri, a Gurkha who served with the General Transport Company. Shyam works at the Hindu Temple in Pyin Oo Lwin and knows exactly where the former Gurkhas live.

Myitkyina is the capital of Kachin State where The Kachin Veterans Committee (KVC) are based. The KVC are our trusted agents for the safe delivery of welfare grants to veterans and widows in the most trying of circumstances. The KVC are led by the indomitable Agnes and supported by Bawm Awn.

On the first day with Bawm Awn veterans were visited in their homes as all were too old to travel to a central meeting point. They spent a long day travelling in and around Myitkyina and successfully managed to locate eighteen veterans and one widow and make grant payments to them.

On the second day they were able to meet a number of widows who had gathered together in various houses, but many were too old and weak to leave their beds. They were able to pay a further 86 individual grants. Many widows remembered the Japanese Army who, they said, were at first well behaved but became increasingly brutal with the local population. A widow who had, during the XIVth Army retreat, hidden a British Officer from the Japanese allowing him to escape. Captain Rosner of the Kachin Levies vowed to return and in 1945 he did. He later married Lagyi Lu now aged 94, who the Secretary General met, living with her daughter Patricia.

Rfn Khambahadur – 1/10th Gurkhas
Rifleman Sumlang La, Kachin Levies, aged 100 years
Veteran with medal
Secretary General, Captain Arthur Andrews and Sham Pandi making grant payments on behalf of the GWT
Gurkha Veterans and widows
Ying Lawm, Secretary KVC, completing the paperwork

Tours Controller Finance 13-21 November 2018
KENYA, TANZANIA AND ZIMBABWE

KENYA

Since its creation in 2010 Defence Forces Old Comrades Association (DEFOCA) has promoted the welfare of serving, retired members of the Kenyan Defence Forces and their dependents. It also serves as the link between RCEL and WWII veterans/widows and those who served the Crown up to independence in 1963. The Royal British Legion Kenya supports DEFOCA on the joint committee chaired by the Defence Adviser in the British High Commission. This is an excellent arrangement and a model for others. At the time of this visit there were 394 eligible veterans and 189 eligible widows. Blind Veterans UK provide grants to 29 veterans.

Controller Finance met with 2 veterans. Signaller Joseph Ngare aged 94 who served with 34th Ugandan Battalion between 1942 and 1946 in Tanzania, Ceylon and India. Private Perminus Gikuhi aged 98 who served with the Somaliland Scouts between 1943 and 1945 in Abyssinia and Libya. Both were in very good spirits and sprightly for their ages. Each one was extremely
grateful for the welfare provided by RCEL.

Controller Finance, Nigel Dransfield with veterans and DEFOCA Staff

TANZANIA

Major Ian Sharp has been singlehandedly responsible for the distribution of welfare grants in Tanzania for the last 7 years. Since Ian’s involvement he has annually driven over 20,000 kms and provided welfare support to over 800 veterans and widows.

Brigadier Msongole, Director of Veterans Affairs, had arranged to meet with 12 WWII veterans and their carers at a local hotel in Arusha. When the veterans arrived,  a total of 17 persons debussed from a 12 seat minibus in the car park of the hotel. Controller Finance met most of the veterans and had the honour to listen to their well remembered WWII service and stories. Many had brought along mementos such as ID tags and pay books but, sadly, as in many other Countries, all had lost their medals. The meeting ended with a pay parade. All of the veterans were extremely grateful for their grants.

CF and Brigidier Msongole Veterans after the ‘Pay Parade’

ZIMBABWE

Since the founding of ZANE in 2005, Tom Benyon and the ZANE team, ably led by Lynda Crafter in Harare, have managed to distribute over £1.5 million of welfare grants, on behalf of RCEL and other military charities over the last 5 years. ZANE became a Member Organisation of RCEL in 2018.

Major Noah Chinyani, formerly of Rhodesia African Rifles, was collecting a grant to pay for personal medication provided through the ZANE Libor Grant.

Phylis DeSimone aged 93 who had been in the Westreiyn Home for 25 years. She served in the WAAF between 1944 -1948. Her recollection of her WAAF Service was excellent and she was particularly proud of her service in the Singapore Signal Centre. Phylis is supported with a grant from the RAFBF.

A visit was made to the Athol Evans Salvation Army Home and the Borradaile Trust Home run by Kathy Buckle who trustees may have met during her visits to the UK. Once again, both homes were kept immaculately and all of the residents were very comfortable. As before, the veterans and widows told harrowing stories of how they had lost everything and were totally dependant on RCEL and Agency welfare payments.

Lynda and Paul arranged a coffee morning in the grounds of their home which was attended by over 30 veterans and widows. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet
so many RCEL welfare grant recipients.

Most of the people stressed that they would be destitute if they were not in receipt of the grants.

CF with Major Noah Chinyani
WAAF Veteran 1944-48
Coffee morning for veterans and widows

Tours Controller Welfare 15-25 October 2018
MAURITIUS, SEYCHELLES AND SRI LANKA

MAURITIUS

The Mauritius Ex-Services Trust Fund is under the watchful eye of Mr Naden Armoogum and is most impressive. The clerk, Mrs Jacqueline Pascal, the daughter of a WWII veteran, has been with the organisation for many years.

A visit was made to Mr Rassool Doohkit, 99, who joined the Mauritius Regiment in September 1943, served 3 years in Egypt and Italy primarily guarding military installations. The only financial support he receives is an old age pension of £110 per month plus the £30 monthly grant from the Trust Fund.

The British Community held a reception at the British High Commission where Controller Welfare was able to meet a variety of interesting personalities and spread the RCEL message.

He was invited to attend a Trust Fund Board meeting. During the meeting he received a presentation on the Trust Fund’s Museum Project which will commemorate Mauritian Service to the British Crown. After the meeting he visited the History Museum and the room to be used. It is expected the project will be opened in late 2019.

Mr Rassool Doohkit, Mauritius Regiment 1943-46

SEYCHELLES

The Board of Trustees of the Seychelles Ex- Servicemen Fund, is ably chaired by Major Andre Baronne. The association with the RCEL will remain strong as the Country did not receive independence until 1976 and a significant number were recruited in the 1960s during the Profumo recruiting drive. These veterans are in their 70s and there will be a substantial number post 2021.

There are two distinct groups of veteran members. The World War II veterans now number just 6. The larger group are those who served in Egypt (Suez Canal) between 1951-53; there are 164 members who are all in their 80’s. Their Chairman is Mr Yvon Bastienne who was a Private in the Royal Pioneer Corps between 1952-55. At 85 he does an excellent job in running the Tobruk Club, the members’ social club.

At the Tobruk Club, he met with the veterans and families. In 2017, RCEL provided £5.5K to renovate the large ground level room and create a modern functional Clubhouse with catering facilities. Andre Baronne had driven the project to completion to provide a superb space for the veterans and widows to gather and promote comradeship and remembrance for the 343 servicemen and women who are eligible for RCEL support.

The Tobruk Club, Seychelles

SRI LANKA

The Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association (SLESA) pre-independence veterans and widows now number 319, all of whom receive SCOWP grants. They receive no Government pensions and have to pay for most of their medical needs. Controller Welfare met 10 beneficiaries at SLESA’s HQ and all were very grateful to RCEL for the support they receive.

The Veterans’ Home at Bolagala is situated some 50kms outside Colombo. There are currently 4 RCEL beneficiaries housed in the home who served during WWII.

HQ SLESA arranged to meet with members of the Executive Committee and staff. One of the veterans was Rifleman Mohamed Ahamed who served with the RASC in Singapore and Malaysia. He is 94 years old and he presented a letter thanking RCEL for the financial support he receives.

The Association office in Kandy was also visited. Some 12 veterans and widows attended the meeting, all supported by family members. The veterans and widows were frail but they were very much appreciative of the welfare assistance they were being given.

Bolagala home – houses four RCEL veterans who served during WWII
Veteran - Rifleman Mohamed Ahamed 
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

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