World War II veterans struggle to get State pension

some solace:The former soldiers and widows of personnel get a small amount from the British government. —Photo: V. Ganesan  

When we think of World War II heroes, we remember leaders and soldiers, and tales of strategic genius and sacrifice on the battlefield. But people like 93-year-old Marie Desmier who served as a nurse in war-torn Burma, running medical supplies between camps, amid the barrage of bombs and bullets, remain unsung and uncelebrated. In fact, for heroes like her, even getting a pension is a big ordeal.

Sitting in a small room at the Nurses Association building in Egmore, Ms. Desmier says she gets a pension of Rs. 2000 a month from the British government.

However, her own State government seems to have forgotten her. Many other veterans in the city are in a worse state.

“I cannot count the number of times I have visited the Tahsildar’s office to get a residence certificate. I finally gave up. Luckily, the British government still provides us the grant,” said 85-year-old Dorothy Ryan, widow of Malcolm Ryan who served on the war front with the Royal Indian Army.

“He died of tuberculosis a few years after the war ended. He was among the first to enlist, and ever since he died, things have been difficult,” said Dorothy, who lives with her daughter in Perambur.

Dorothy and Marie are among the 90-odd people in the State receiving grants from the Ex Services Association (affiliated to the Royal Commonwealth Ex Services League, London) in Egmore. While the Tamil Nadu Ex-servicemen Welfare Department has also been providing grants of Rs. 4,500 to World War II veterans and Rs. 2,500 to their widows, many claim that it is difficult to get the money.

Red tape

“We only have copies of our original documents. But when we visited local authorities, they made us run around a lot,” complained Philis Johnston, an 86-year-old World War II widow, who lives in Pudupet with her disabled sister.

“Our needs are limited and I do not have anyone to look after me. All I seek is assistance from the authorities. We hope they help us,” she said.

Officials from the Ex Servicemen Department said that they were in constant touch with the local Tahsildars and made it a point to get the original documents from the land records if the veterans did not have them.

“We don’t have any land records. But I have fought in the war. It would be extremely helpful it the officials concerned help us get the pension,” said 92-year-old Eardley Connors, a former soldier with the Royal Indian Army.

Recalling her experiences from war, Marie, who served in the Royal Medical Corps said. “For four years I was away from home, helping wounded prisoners in different camps. We are war veterans and take pride in it. All we wish is to be treated on par with other veterans,” she said.

The senior citizens complained that they were forced to run around to get documents

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 3:14:46 PM |

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