On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th Day – Lest We Forget
On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th Day – Lest We Forget. Remembrance Day and I’m sure you will all be sporting your poppies and in turn supporting the Royal British Legion in support of all our brave men and women who gave their life for their country whether in action or as a result of being in action.
Some die many years later as a result of damage caused to their health and many have had an even greater fight to secure the War Pension they were entitled to. My Father was just one of thousands of such servicemen and women.
This is his story!
My Dad served in action during WW2 and being such a patriot he lied about his age so he could enlist, he was already a TA. He added 1 year on to his age to make him eligible. My Grandmother when she found up marched down the recruiting office demanding to have her son back! Their response too bad we’ve got him!
He trained in a new unit being formed called the Commando’s and some of the conditions these trainees had to endure during their training were horrendous, an example was sleeping in a pig sty and during this time he started having trouble with his chest resulting in bouts of Bronchitis. He was transferred into the Royal Engineers and was posted in North Africa where he served the duration of the war mainly in Cairo and Alexandria. He was proud to be part of the 8th Army serving under Monty.
Part of his duties was to unload chemicals from the container ships, what these chemicals were he was never told but bearing in mind the war situation, you can imagine. Although they were issued with breathing masks their use was never enforced and it was far too hot for them to wear them. So it goes without saying that he breathed in deadly chemicals causing yet more damage to his lungs.
When he demobbed at the age of 23 he returned to civilian life, married and had 6 children. During this time, and as for as long as I knew him he suffered with bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. One episode occurred 17th February 1960, the doctor said he was too ill to move to hospital and there were grave concerns about whether he would survive. A date I know so well you ask? Yes it was also the day I was born.
My Dad however had other ideas and he did recover but from that moment on we had a very special bond.
As I said he suffered badly with his chest for all my life and in 1992 he was diagnosed with Emphysema and had to use Oxygen on occasion. His condition worsened until it got to the point that he was on permanent oxygen and in and out of hospital constantly. During this time he started going regularly going to our local Royal British Legion Club and as a result of swopping life experiences he was told he should apply for a war pension which he had never even thought about, so he did. His application was turned down saying no evidence.
The Royal British Legion backed his case and they appealed time and time again but with no success. To cut a long story short they prepared his case for a final appeal to be held at the appeal courts in Cardiff on 5th November 2002. Mt father was too ill to attend and so my eldest Brother Trevor and myself attended on his behalf. We met with the lovely barrister an ex serviceman himself who lost a leg in action and retrained as a lawyer fighting the cause of other ex servicemen and women. We could tell that he had prepared meticulously for the appeal leaving no detail uncovered. We felt like they were treating my Dad as a person and not just an ex serviceman.
The War Pensions department’s defence was that my Dad was a smoker (until 1987) and that this was the cause of his chest condition.
During the appeal hearing, held in front of 3 judges, they questioned us about my Father and Trevor who was 13 at the time I was born and was so able to recollect very well that period around my birth. I in turn was able to give evidence of his health throughout my life.
The verdict, the appeal court found that there was a case to answer and that my father was far too young to have suffered since 1940 from smoking and accepted that the conditions he endured during his training and in North Africa was the proximate cause. Their judgement was that my Father was to be awarded a full war pension backdated to the date he made his claim.
We drove back to Bristol where we found my Father sitting at the dining table waiting for us. When we told him he burst into tears, his words were “finally someone believes me”
My beloved Dad died at 8am on 01/01/2003 aged 80. A few weeks later a letter arrived with a cheques for a considerable amount of money, his back payments and details of my Mum’s war widow’s pension. So sad he never lived to see it but the result of his fight meant that my Mum never had to worry about money for the rest of her life. She is alive and well and will be 96 in December.
Once I started my crafting and shop I began to raise funds each year by selling Poppy themed items. Last year was my best year where I raised £54, this year my target is £100, not a lot I know but every little helps the Royal British Legion fight for other people’s Mum’s and Dad’s.
I am hoping you can all support me.
My products for 2018 are shown below and throughout this text, 50% of the profits are donated to the Royal British Legion. Please help me to repay a debt of gratitude I can never truly repay.
- Necklace and earring sets £4.99
- Earrings £2.99
- Necklace £3.99
- Wish bracelets £3.99
- Scarf/Lapel pins £4.99
- Crystal and Enamel brooches £4.99
I will get these listed on my Tia Crafts shop as soon as possible but in the meantime if you wish to order please e mail email@example.com
In memory of Reg Rawling 04/12/1922 to 01/01/2003