Monitoring & Evaluation Visits – 2022

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.

Secretary General Christopher Warren
Visits South Africa and Lesotho

SOUTH AFRICA 1 – 3 April 2022

At the time of the Secretary General’s visit, RCEL was providing support to 18 SCOWP beneficiaries and 57 Agency cases (on behalf of UK Service charities). The South African Legion National Headquarters conducts casework and ongoing reporting for compliance of the FCDO Commonwealth Veterans Programme, and we are grateful to them for this valuable support. 

Whilst in South Africa, Secretary General Chris Warren had a productive meeting with the British Defence Adviser, Colonel Stan Harris. They were joined via Teams by the National President, Lgr Brian Smith and the National Secretary, Lgr Riana Venter van Zyl where Chris was able to brief the DA on the role of RCEL globally and with the SA Legion. The DA agreed to assist with Poppy distribution from the UK to the SA Legion.

The Secretary General later met with National Secretary Executive Committee and separately, the National Office Bearers (NOB) for useful meetings. This was a timely visit to the South African Legion. The National President and National Secretary are committed to providing support to RCEL SCOWP and Agency beneficiaries and this remains their focus.

Brian Smith – National President, Secretary General and Lgr Riana Venter van Zyl – National Secretary

LESOTHO 3 – 5 April 2022

This was the first trip to Lesotho since 2019, when the Secretary General last visited. For the last 19 years the ex-servicemen and widows have been looked after by Lt Col Jurie vd Merwe, supported by African Pioneer Corps National Secretary, Julia Puseletso Maratholi. Jurie is a previous President of the South African Legion and as a result of his dedication to the veterans and widows of Lesotho, the Basotho Legion is on a firm footing, well organised with the needs of beneficiaries well met. Since the last visit, Jurie’s son-in-law, Hano Du Toit, a qualified accountant agreed to assist Jurie and the RCEL. He and Julia undertake the work required for the timely completion of the quarterly reports and returns.

Calwick Lefu Ts’ehlana, the British High Commissioner, Home Affairs Minister, Secretary General, Julia Puseletso Maratholi and the late Jurie vd Merwe

Chris also visited the African Pioneer Compound (APC) where he was able to check records and bank statements. RCEL investment in IT training for Julia and Hano's ongoing CPD has meant that resilience is far stronger than in previous years. Julia can create spreadsheets and undertake internet banking. This is vital as in January the Lesotho banking system ceased accepting cheques; all beneficiaries are now paid online.

Whilst at the APC, the British High Commissioner and the Home Affairs Minister arrived for an arranged visit. The Minister was very interested in RCEL’s work, promising Government of Lesotho support to the pre-independence veterans and widows at Remembrance.

A timely visit and great reassurance that with Hano Du Toit overseeing quarterly reporting from information provided by Julia, the resilience built in will allow support to continue for the duration of the FCDO Programme.

On the first day, the Secretary General met with the British High Commissioner, HE Anne Macro who was very interested in RCEL’s work. Later that day, Chris was met by Colonel Mohale who had arranged for him to see Pte Lekane Tabo and Sgt Rakhare, both African Pioneer Corps and WWII veterans. Also present was the widow of Pte Molete, Mrs Mapablw. Chris had met the veterans in 2019 and was saddened to see they had aged considerably with a marked reduction in mobility. It was a great privilege for him to see them again.

Widow Mrs Mapablw

* Lt Colonel Jurie vd Merwe is a Former President of the South African Legion. For over 20 years Jurie has been a committed and tireless supported as our Honorary Adviser to Lesotho for which he was awarded the Deputy Grand President’s Certificate of Achievement. Jurie died on 25 November 2022.

Controller Welfare & Grants Tim Burt

BANGLADESH 24 – 25 May 2022

Tim Burt’s visit to our member Organisation and to meet beneficiaries. However, the planned two-day visit was cut to one day (Wednesday 25th May) following a weather delay travelling from Delhi to Dhaka.

The shortened visit led to a change of programme to do what was possible for one day. Unfortunately, this meant Tim was unable to visit Comilla and meet veterans and widows gathered at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, Maynamati. The shortened programme began with a meeting at Bangladesh MOD and concluded with meeting at BASB, both in central Dhaka.

Tim met with Mr Hasibul Alam, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence under whose remit BASB falls. Also in attendance was Director General BASB, Brigadier Hasan and other BASB executives. It was a productive meeting highlighting the important role BASB plays in distributing aid to veterans and widows in Bangladesh.

Later that day, Tim received a briefing by Director General of BASB, who was joined by Colonel Hussain Reza and Major Moshiul Mashuk and Major Asraf Choudhury. The briefing outlined the BASB role, functions, organisation and size of membership (160,000+ veterans), RCEL beneficiaries, payment of RCEL grants since 2019 and discussion of the RCEL administration grant to BASB.

Whilst disappointing that bad weather cut the visit schedule in half, the meetings Controller Welfare & Grants had with with Mr Hasibul Alam at Bangladesh MoD and with Brigadier Hasan and staff at BASB were very worthwhile. BASB remains a valued Member Organisation providing excellent support to veterans and widows in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Armed Services Board, Dhaka Left to Right – Major Moshiul Mashuk, Brigadier Md Quamrul Hasan, Tim Burt and Major Ashraf Choudhury

Controller Finance & Compliance David Thompson
Visits Tanzania and Kenya

TANZANIA 24 – 26 May 2022

The last visit to Tanzania was by former Controller Finance, Nigel Dransfield in November 2018, just prior to the start of the Commonwealth Veterans Programme. Unfortunately, in early 2019, while compiling the due diligence required for the FCDO Programme, it became apparent that the Tanzania People’s Defence Force’s (TPDF) were not able to provide the necessary documents and assurance needed to satisfy the increased requirements. Therefore, no funds have been sent to Tanzania since 2019. A planned visit by the Secretary General in March 2020 to try and resolve the issues was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

This visit by David Thompson, Controller Finance, aimed to explore the suitability of the TPDF to restart grant payments to beneficiaries with an increased level of oversight and to meet representatives from the Tanzania Legion & Clubs (TLC) to ascertain their suitability to make payments either in tandem with, or instead of TPDF should the latter be unable to meet the necessary criteria. The goal was to resume payments to the estimated 128 veterans and widows in Tanzania.

David met with the TPDF Chief of Reserve Forces, Brig Kadawi. He appeared in principle keen to assist with the disbursement of grants but was keen to gain official approval at Ministerial level before moving forward with the more detailed discussion/ negotiation.

Whilst in Tanzania, David met with the British High Commissioner, David Concar, for a short but focused meeting.  He was keen to help RCEL move forward and confirmed that he would push a formal bid for support from the TPDF through the right diplomatic channels to get to the Minister of Defence.

A meeting with the TLC revealed they would not be able to comply with the due diligence requirements and therefore would not be able to disburse grants to beneficiaries. 

Despite this visit and subsequent exploratory discussions with various parties, it has not been possible to arrange the necessary governance and oversight of TPDF and sadly RCEL remains unable to disburse grants to Tanzania.

From L - R: Col Milewa, Controller Finance, Brig Kadawi, Maj Ndaro

KENYA 26 – 30 May 2022

The last visit to Kenya was conducted by Controller Welfare & Grants, Tim Burt in June 2019 shortly after the start of the FCDO Programme. Kenya has the second highest number of SCOWP beneficiaries after Pakistan with 289 veterans and 234 widows.

Accompanied by Col (Ret’d) John Steed, a former DA in Kenya and now Chairman of British Legion Kenya (BLK), David travelled to Machakos to visit the Defence Forces Comrades Association (DEFOCA) County Branch. They were joined by the County Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary. In addition, Col Jonathan Makau, the Managing Director of DEFOCA and some of his HQ team travelled from Nairobi for the visit.

DEFOCA provided details of an extensive tour of the county, something not undertaken by the previous committee, resulting in several new potential beneficiaries requesting support. During his visit, Controller Finance, David Thompson, explained that globally RCEL was already supporting a higher number of beneficiaries on the programme than had been either forecast or budgeted for and that the funds available were finite. It was on this basis that we had had to take the very difficult decision to cap numbers in Kenya where numbers had already increased considerably since the start of the programme. 

Whilst in Kenya, David met with ten veterans who had all served in WW2; four of the veterans were in their 90’s and the remaining six were 100 or over with one aged 108. The majority were still able to communicate clearly and enjoyed telling David their history and experience during the war. Most of the veterans served in Somalia and Abyssinia during the war, but a couple had been in Burma as part of the East African Division.

Controller Finance with DEFOCA HQ Staff

Whist in Kenya, David met with a number of the BLK Committee. He reviewed the grant payment transfer system to DEFOCA from BLK and looked at samples of the county beneficiaries lists matched to payment requests. The lists are reviewed at each Joint Committee meeting and Proof of Life checks are conducted by the county branches. The Joint Committee oversight and grant payment process are working well. BLK echoed the concerns of DEFOCA re the cap on beneficiary numbers.

David spent useful time with Brig Ronnie Westerman, Defence Advisor (DA) and Lt Col Ash 

Wiseman, Deputy Defence Advisor (DDA) at the British High Commission. He was able to thank them for their support of the Joint Committee in Kenya. The DA explained that the team was under resourced and would not be able to provide any assistance with oversight of the TPDF in Tanzania.

This was a busy and productive visit. The joint Committee of DEFOCA and BLK works well, and the oversight and grant payments are efficient.

WW2 Askari veterans with their carers, Machakos Committee Members, DEFOCA HQ Staff and Chairman BLK

Controller Welfare & Grants Tim Burt
Visits to Malawi & Botswana

MALAWI 19 – 23 July 2022

Since the last visit by Nigel Dransfield, (then Controller Finance) the Kings African Veterans Trust (KAVT) has settled into a good grant distribution and reporting routine in line with RCEL reporting requirements. The focus of this visit was to ensure the more stringent verification requirements for pre-independence widows was being correctly observed.

Controller Welfare & Grants, Tim Burt’s first meeting was with KAVT Honorary Advisor, Denis Lewis; this provided an opportunity for Tim to better understand the practicalities of life in Malawi for veterans and widows and the work of KAVT.

The same day, Tim met with the rest of the KAVT Committee and later visited the Memorial Homes in Zomba. Some 50 houses are located opposite Cobbe Barracks of the Malawi Defence Forces with about two dozen occupied by RCEL veterans and their widows. With the assistance of WOI (Ret’d) Chiwengo and Debora, his daughter, some 26 widows made individual Form B applications for welfare support, providing whatever identification and eligibility paperwork they could in support.

Tim also met with two veterans of 1Bn Kings African Rifles who live at the homes: former Corporal, Gideon Labani, 91, and former Private, Byson Ngkhuni, 88.

During his visit, Controller Welfare also met with KAR and Zambia Regiment WWII veteran Colour Sergeant Maxmos Ketulo who was born in 1921. Maxmos explained, ‘I am a Second World War veteran, who got wounded during combat in Burma. I was serving under 21st Brigade, 11th (East African) Division. I was shot in the mouth and the bullet came outside to the left of my neck, damaging two teeth in the process. I got treated in India.’ Former Colour Sergeant Ketulo now receives a SCOWP grant of £612 a year for which he is most grateful.

Tim had several more memorable meetings with widows during a visit to Balaka. Sadly, many were unable to provide the necessary paperwork for verification; without this their applications cannot be approved.

A productive and timely visit which provided great opportunities to meet with veterans and widows and re-enforce the good relations with KAVT.

Tim Burt with Colour Sergeant Maxmos Ketulo

Zomba – widows waiting to make a SCOWP application

BOTSWANA 23 – 28 July 2022

The Botswana Veterans League membership of RCEL was formally ratified at the Kuala Lumpur Conference in 2016 and the last visit was by former Controller Finance, Nigel Dransfield. In 2021, a new Committee was formed. This visit was a routine monitoring and evaluation visit with the objective of meeting veterans and widows.

Accompanied by Group Captain Andrew Bastable (Defence Attaché Zimbabwe and Defence Advisor Botswana, Malawi and Zambia), Tim had a productive first day meeting veterans. These included Julius Segano who lives in Lobatse. Whilst slowing down in recent years Julius Segano remains a well-known local figure and former school master in the town. Julius was keen to talk about his early life, joining the Kings African Rifles in the then Bechuanaland Protectorate, his post war teaching career, retirement in 1990 and meeting Princess Anne when she visited Botswana in November 2011. Mr Segano is well cared for by family members in the family home.

Whilst in Botswana, Tim met with Mrs Sebipe, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Social Protection who confirmed that all elderly Botswana citizens receive a monthly pension and WWII veterans receive a monthly allowance; a total of approx. £90 per month.

Julius Segano

Camilla John, Finance & Welfare Officer

ZAMBIA 19 – 21 October 2022

Zambia was last visited by the Secretary General in 2016, so this was a timely visit. Camilla John, RCEL Finance & Welfare Officer was fortunately able to visit Zambia in October 2022 on the way back from a trip to neighbouring Zimbabwe.

At the time of the visit, there were two surviving veterans and 36 widows. Captain Geoff Thomas, Chair of the Zambia Poppy Committee is RCEL’s main point of contact. Despite working full time, Geoff undertakes this role in a voluntary capacity with exceptional care and enthusiasm. He works alongside The Ex-Serviceman’s League of Zambia (EXSELZA), liaising with the surviving veterans and widows, ensuring they receive their grants and completes all reports and paperwork for RCEL. 

During her visit, Camilla spent time with Captain Thomas looking at paperwork, finances and running verification checks. She later spent an afternoon at the Burma Memorial Hall where she met with ten widows for an enjoyable lunch. She was joined by Brigadier General Joyce Puta, Chair of the NEC and Colonel Mwamba, Zambia Director of Veterans. 

Camilla had the opportunity to meet ten widows individually; they were happy to share their stories, and some were able to recall details of their husbands’ service.  All emphasised their gratitude for the grants received. (For the individual story of Elizabeth Fane Mbati see Case Study on page 17 of RCEL’s 2022 Annual Report).

This was a short but very productive visit. Captain Geoff Thomas is fully committed to the cause and doing an excellent job of supporting the remaining veterans and widows in Zambia.

Captain Geoff Thomas (front row), with Camilla John and Brigadier General Joyce Puta and Zambian widows outside the Burma Memorial Hall in Lusaka.

Pasan Kularatne, Programme Manager
Visits Cameroon and Eswatini

CAMEROON 21 – 26 November 2022

This was the first visit to Cameroon by a member of the UK team since 2019, though Derrick Cobbinah, Project Officer for Africa, visited in 2021. As one of the most challenging countries of the Commonwealth Veterans Programme because of the prevailing security situation in the country, a Monitoring & Evaluation visit was important.

The Fraternal Union of Cameroon Ex-Servicemen of the Crown (FUCEMOC) is the RCEL Member Organisation and at the time of the visit, there were 52 surviving beneficiaries: 31 veterans and 21 widows.

Pasan Kularatne spent time in Limbe in Southwest Cameroon with Sophie Scott, FUCEMOC Treasurer and Chief Warrant Officer Nyenti Egbe John, Vice President of FUCEMOC, looking at the records they hold in the office. Pasan was able to meet with five widows at a lunch arranged by Sophie and hand deliver their SCOWP welfare grants and visited two widows at their homes. He also visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Limbe Botanic Garden where the annual Remembrance service takes place.

Pasan also visited Bamenda in Northwest Cameroon but was advised not to stay overnight due to security concerns. Whilst in Bamenda, Pasan and Sophie were joined by Captain Sylvester Ade, President of FUCEMOC. They met several widows including Cameroon’s oldest surviving veteran, Sergeant Lawan John who is 108.

Sergeant John was recruited in Enuga Nigeria in March 1942 to Unit 2442 APC North Africa. He was discharged in July 1946. He served in Enugu, Jerusalem, Burma and Bamenda. He lives in Bamenda with his second wife and has 6 children.

Whilst in Cameroon, Pasan was able to meet with the Deputy High Commissioner, Nigel Holmes and inform him about the work of RCEL and the Commonwealth Veterans Programme.  

Sophie, Egbe and Sylvester are doing a great job in Cameroon, despite the challenging security situation. Grants are disbursed in a timely manner and the welfare of veterans and widows is always forefront in their minds.

Pasan with Sergeant Lawan John

Pasan Kularatne with members of FUCEMOC, and veterans and widows in Barmenda

ESWATINI 28 Nov – 01 Dec 2022

Eswatini was last visited by the Secretary General in 2016, so this was a timely visit. The Member Organisation, Umsizi, the Ex-servicemen’s Welfare Association is Chaired by Gaz Barlow who spent 12 years in the British Army (Royal Signals) before moving to Eswatini 22 years ago.  Gaz is supported by his wife Iris, who acts as Treasurer.

There are no surviving veterans in Eswatini and 25 widows at the time of the visit. Pasan visited five widows in their own homes all living in rural areas. Tryphinah Sulo Khumalo, 80, is the widow of Pte Moses Mnushile Khumalo. Pte Moses served in the Royal Army Unit 97 from 1942 to 1945 where he served in Tripoli, Libya and Italy. After WW2 service, he served in the United States Defence Force and died in 2002. They had seven children. Mrs Khumalo expressed her gratitude for the grants she receives.

Pasan with Mrs Khumalo

Whilst in Eswatini, Pasan met with the British High Commissioner, Simon Boyden who was very interested to hear about RCEL and the Commonwealth Veterans Programme and expressed his willingness to assist Umsizi and RCEL if a need arises.

Umsizi is well run and well managed by Gaz and Iris Barlow and excellent paperwork is maintained. Both spend considerable personal time and money supporting RCEL beneficiaries.

Pasan with Mrs Khumalo

Umsizi Treasurer, Iris Barlow with widow Josephine Fikelephi Ngozo

Christopher Warren, Secretary General and Toby Case, Honorary Legal Advise
Visits Gambia, Sierra Leone and Uganda

GAMBIA 21 – 26 January 2023

Chris Warren was accompanied by Toby Case, RCEL’s Commonwealth Council Member for The 

Gambia, a member of the Senior Management Team and the Honorary Legal Advisor. Both were escorted on visits by Pa Faal and Gibril Jaw representing the Gambia Legion and by Peter Twitchett, who assists and advises the Legion.  The security situation has much improved since the last visit in 2017.

Noeline Ambrose, our Gambia Project Officer, has responsibility for all aspects of welfare support and administration and all records and accounts are accurate and well maintained. Further, she and Pa Faal successfully persuaded the Gambian Armed Forces (GAF) to provide a vehicle and driver to assist with the payment of welfare grants.

Whilst in Gambia, Chris and Toby met with the Deputy High Commissioner, Martin Norman and thanked him for his support to veterans and widows during Remembrance and discussed the political situation.  They also met with Major General Mamat Oacham, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff and thanked him for the support of the Gambian Armed Forces and the provision of a vehicle and driver during welfare payment visits.

Chairman and members at the AGM in Bakau

 During a visit to Banjul, Chris and Toby met two widows and one veteran in their homes. Bully Sanneh, 95 is cared for by his wife and daughter. He joined the 1st Gambia Regiment in 1944 with the Royal West African Frontier Force and served until 1958. He completed his service as a Sergeant and remembers the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. He is very grateful for the RCEL welfare grant which is used to buy food.

The last remaining Gambia Legion branch situated in Bakau held its AGM during the visit. This was attended by 35 members, including many veterans and widows. This provided a further opportunity for Chris and Toby to meet with beneficiaries during the lunch that followed. They included WW2 veteran, LCpl Landing Jetta who finished his service with The Gambia Regiment in 1957.

Bully Sanneh and Landing Jetta

This was a busy and productive visit, greatly enhanced by having Toby Case present in his capacity as Council Member and Honorary Legal Adviser. Toby was able to speak with and capture the details of many veterans and widows. In addition, he assisted with the review and auditing of Noeline’s records and accounts.

SIERRA LEONE 26 – 31 January 2023

The last visit to Sierra Leone was in March 2020 when David Thompson, Controller Finance and Compliance was accompanied by our West Africa Project Officer, Derrick Cobbinah. Sierra Leone is a high maintenance country, requiring greater oversight and visits than many other countries. This is due to the security situation, changing personalities and a very complex political situation following the 10-year civil war.

At the time of this visit, there were 147 surviving beneficiaries - 55 veterans and 92 widows. Secretary General, Chris Warren and Hon Legal Adviser, Toby Case were accompanied in Freetown by the Secretary General of Sierra Leone Ex-Serviceman’s Association (SLESA), Lt Col Fatorma Gottor and Sam Sahr, a former British NCO and our Honorary Adviser for Sierra Leone. 

Chris and Toby spent considerable time with SLESA officers and staff in their office in Cockerill Barracks auditing paperwork, checking bank statements, and checking veteran and widow eligibility by dip testing a number on the lists of those supported. This proved to be a lengthy process as the filing system has room for improvement, something discussed and encouraged. On several occasions during time spent with SLESA, many widows arrived seeking a grant who sadly did not meet the eligibility criteria.

Whilst in Sierra Leone, Chris, Toby, Sam and Fatorma met the British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Lisa Chesney. The Secretary General was able to brief her on the RCEL global, FCDO and SLESA situation.

The Full SLESA office staff with Secretary General, Honorary Legal Adviser and Sam Sahr

The High Commissioner highlighted the poverty in Sierra Leone and that the country was the 6th poorest in the world. With national elections on the horizon, she voiced her concern about civil unrest.

During a visit to Waterloo, Chris and Toby were greeted with a local song and introduced to many veterans and widows. These included Joseph Arunu who lost a finger when a mortar fuse detonated in his hand and Capt. Foday Kamara who was recruited in 1961 and joined 1st Bn Royal Sierra Leone Regiment. He is the Tribal Chief of the western area and Waterloo. He attended the Mortar Course at the Support Weapons Wing; Warminster and his happiest memory is of Calor gas heaters in his billet at Netheravon during his course. He remembers the instructor as Captain ‘Terror’ but is unable to recall his name.

Meeting veterans at Waterloo

Sierra Leone remains problematic, principally due to the political situation creating tension between SLESA and the MoD. However, SLESA continues to run well with Lt Col Fatorma Gottor at the helm.

The support of Sam Sahr is invaluable. RCEL is grateful to SLESA for continuing to ensure that veterans and widows in Sierra Leone receive our support.

UGANDA 2 – 6 February 2023

The Uganda Ex-Servicemen’s Association (UESA) has one of the largest numbers of beneficiaries with 455 (365 veterans & 90 widows) at the time of this visit.

This visit began with a meeting with the DA, Lt Col Toby Barrington Barnes and the Assistant DA SSgt Raj Chandrock in the British High Commission attended by Secretary General, Chris Warren, Honorary Legal Adviser, Toby Case, David Rogers Senoga (Secretary General UESA) and Herbert Kamyuka, the Treasurer of UESA. The DA had agreed to facilitate the Remembrance and wreath laying service at Jinja the next day. This event took place in Jinja, some 2 hours out of Kampala at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Several veterans and widows attended the moving service and the lunch that followed, and Chris and Toby were able to spend time meeting many of them. Lunch was greatly appreciated by the veterans and widows, and it was very good to witness them interacting with each other and enjoying the occasion.

Whilst in Kampala, Chris and Tony met the Chairman, Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General and the Treasurer at the UESA offices in Kampala. 

This Committee currently meets twice a month and provided a full update on UESA, methods of payments to veterans and widows and funding UESA to effectively deliver the grants whilst meeting the demanding reporting requirements. 

Chris and Toby were able to undertake a short audit. They concluded that the accounts were well maintained and that financial returns to RCEL during the quarterly reporting process was effective.

Following this, they met WWII veteran E68142 Cpl Wiza Keberro who is 102. He was recruited in Uganda in1943 and discharged in Nanyuki, Kenya following service with No 5 Company the East African Engineers. He was discharged in Kenya because his role had been guarding Italian POWs held in the Nanyuki area.

Later in the visit, Chris and Toby attended as observers a meeting of The Joint Veterans Committee (Uganda) which took place in the Department of Veterans Affairs in the MoD. During the meeting, Toby was again able to explain the importance of the Widows Policy and UESA and the Uganda MoD agreed that the eligibility criteria were clear, and they would continue to use this for assessing new widow applications, of which there are many.

The trip concluded with visits to more veterans and widows in remote areas, requiring long drives; very few live in Kampala as it is too expensive. All expressed their gratitude for the support they are given.

This was a successful visit.  Relationships with the British High Commission and the Uganda Department of Veterans Affairs have strengthened. It is clear the veterans and widows are well cared for and receive their grant in a timely manner. It is likely numbers will increase soon as pending widow applications are reviewed.

Secretary General meeting veterans and widows

Toby Case meeting veterans and widows following the Service.

Controller Finance & Compliance - David Thompson
Visits Mauritius & Malaysia

MAURITIUS 22 – 27 February 2023

As directed by the Mauritius Government, the dissolution of the Mauritius Ex-Services Trust Fund took place on 27th December 2021 and all responsibility for RCEL’s beneficiaries was transferred to the Ex-Services Association of Mauritius (ESAM). Due Diligence was completed on ESAM as the new Member Organisation in early 2022. With the new organisation in place, this was an important visit to review how ESAM was operating.

Further, this visit provided an opportunity to meet veterans & widows in receipt of SCOWP & Blind Veterans UK grants, to visit beneficiaries on Rodrigues Island, which had not been previously visited by RCEL and to see the impact of the Libor grant on the completed museum in Mauritius. 

ESAM is a private association which has been in existence for 75 years. It is managed by a committee composed of 13 veterans with the assistance of Mr Naden Armoogum, RCEL’s main point of contact, who was appointed as the Manager of the organisation. 

Controller Finance, David Thompson, and Naden met with the Acting British High Commissioner, Mrs Sally Harrison and briefed her on the Commonwealth Veterans Programme. The next day, David visited Rodrigues Island, a small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mauritius. 

On Rodrigues Island, there are four widows in receipt of SCOWP grants and two veterans who receive Blind Veterans UK grants. David met with all six beneficiaries who live in a variety of conditions, ranging from a tin and wood-built shack to more modern concrete structures. The beneficiaries included André Casimir. Mr Casimir served for two tours in the Royal Pioneer Corps from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently 1949 to 1952. He served in Cyprus, Egypt, Benghazi (Libya) and Palestine. He is 102 years old and can’t remember much about his service other than the countries he visited, and his Army Number. When he returned to Rodrigues he was employed as a labourer mainly working in agriculture. His wife died some time ago, but they were married for over 50 years and had 17 children of which only 3 are still alive.

On his final day in Mauritius, David visited the museum, which pays tribute to the 3,000 and 35,000 Mauritians who served during WW1 and WW2 respectively, in the British Army. The exhibits are excellent and very informative. RCEL’s Libor contribution is displayed prominently on the list of donors in the gallery. These funds have been spent productively and a fitting tribute has been created.

Germaine Raboude, age 89;  Andre Casimir age 102

The trip concluded with a meeting with Mr R Sonea, one of the Permanent Secretary’s in the Prime Minister’s Office who is responsible for Veterans affairs in Mauritius. David was able to thank Mr Sonea for the support provided by the government to all our RCEL beneficiaries, the government funding provided for the museum and the leading role in Remembrance each year.

A timely and productive visit; ESAM is a well-run Member Organisation with good governance and excellent records.

MALAYSIA 28 February – 3 March 2023

Kuala Lumpur was the venue for the successful RCEL Conference in 2016. Prior to that, the last visit was in 2014, so a visit was overdue. In addition, Malaysia was the last country in the FCDO Commonwealth Veterans Programme (CVP) which required a Monitoring and Evaluation visit as outlined in the Accountable Grant Arrangement.

There are just two surviving SCOWP beneficiaries in Malaysia, both widows. Most of the work undertaken by the Malaysia Ex-British Army Association (MEBAA) is the disbursement of Agency grants on behalf of the various UK service charities. Whilst there are beneficiaries supported both by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, most served in the British Army in either the Royal Signals, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers or what is now the Royal Logistic Corps.

The main purpose of this visit was to meet the MEBAA Committee to discuss its resilience and future plans, and to meet veterans and widows.

Accompanied by the President of MEBAA, Abdul Rahman Ahmad and Treasurer, Joe Scully, David visited two veterans and three widows. This included Sergeant Jalil, aged 80, who served in the Royal Signals Corps in Singapore between 1957 and 1969. He initially attended the Army Boys Trade School in Singapore. Sergeant Jalil subsequently served in 18 Signal Regiment, which were seconded to the Royal Air Force mainly in Singapore, but he also visited Hong Kong and Gan Island during his service. In addition, he attended his technical Class 1 Signals Course in Catterick for 6 months in 1962 – he remembers it being very cold and a considerable contrast to the weather in Singapore & Malaysia!

After his discharge, he worked for 5 years in the Oil Fields in Brunei and subsequently worked for Ericsson Communications for many years until his retirement. He has been married twice and had 6 children.

David later attend a MEBAA Management Committee meeting in which they conducted their standard business including a review of both income & expenditure, MEBAA membership numbers and beneficiaries including caseload by Service Charity, application renewals and pending approvals.

President MEBAA, Abdul Rahman; Ahmad bin Jalil; RCEL Controller Finance; Mrs Jalil

MEBAA is a very well-run Member Organisation; excellent individual records are kept of each beneficiary which include their records of service, grant applications, payment dates of grants together with amounts and any verification details. Currently MEBAA has a finite life span of around 2 years unless volunteers can be found to replace the existing committee. Discussions with the UK Service Charities will need to be arranged to agree plans to support beneficiaries if MEBAA ceases to exist.
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