MPs demand justice for soldier denied a pension

Isn't this just typical of penny pinching beancounters?

MPs demand justice for soldier denied a pension
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 16/02/2006)

War veterans draped a Union flag in black yesterday to mark the "death of justice" in the "maladministration" of a military pension for a fallen hero.

Supported by Tory shadow defence ministers, a score of octogenarian Second World War veterans marched on Downing Street to seek redress for Lt Billy Norbury and his widow, who they said had suffered a "gross injustice" in being denied a war pension.

Lt Norbury: wounded
Lt Norbury was wounded by machinegun fire and grenades while storming a hill in Burma during the bloody battles of 1944. Fifty-four years later the decorated King's African Rifles officer died penniless in a public hospital in South Africa after decades of agony and operations.

After selling the family home and its contents and despite his wife Gillian working part-time while nursing her husband, the Norburys ran out of money to support the medical bills.

For decades, following alleged bureaucratic bungles by the Ministry of Defence and the Veterans' Agency, Lt Norbury, MC, was denied a war disability pension because he had enlisted in a "colonial" regiment.

He was given a war disability pension fixed at £230 a year paid by the Colonial Office but when Kenya gained independence this came to a halt. Despite several appeals to the Veterans' Agency, he was told that because he enlisted in Kenya "any appeals you have to make would have to be with the Kenyan authorities". The Veterans Agency said war disability pensions were only for those who fought in the Armed Forces in units based in Britain.

After his death in 1998 Mrs Norbury was forced to leave her family behind in South Africa, where one of her sons was murdered and another died in a flying accident, to live off a state pension in a flat in Newbury, Berks.

Richard Benyon, her MP, said the case was an example of "a disgraceful performance by officials" and "appalling maladministration".

"Billy Norbury was horrendously wounded and lived in penury after 1944 and the least a civilised country could do is to bend over backwards to make sure he not only received medical treatment but enough money to live on," he said.

Mr Benyon will be joined by Capt John Nunneley at a meeting with Don Touhig, the veterans' affairs minister, today to seek an ex gratia payment for Mrs Norbury of £350,000 - an amount calculated from missed payments since 1945.

Capt Nunneley, 82, of Richmond, Surrey, has worked for three years leading the "Justice For Gillian" campaign.

Speaking at the MoD building, he said: "This is a national disgrace. Billy Norbury has been abandoned by the country he served and his appeals for help went completely unheeded."

Capt Nunneley had also draped in black the Union Flag that he had taken from a dead Japanese sergeant who had captured it during the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Joined by shadow defence ministers Julian Lewis and Mark Harper, and Mrs Norbury, the demonstrators handed in a letter to Downing Street that called on Tony Blair to bring a "honourable resolution" to a "catalogue of lost letters, ignored appeals and unanswered letters".

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