Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL) remembers Gambian soldiers in WWII

Aug 13, 2020, 11:05 AM

Press release
As we approach V-J Day it is important to recognise the heroic contribution made by Gambian soldiers serving in the 81st West African Division of the Fourteenth Army in Burma during WWII.

Whilst COVID-19 prevents a large public commemoration, a ceremony will take place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Fajara. The CWGC cemetery provides a permanent commemoration, funded by the UK and Commonwealth countries, to all those who sacrificed so much in the name of peace.

For decades, the RCEL has been providing charitable support to thousands of WWII & pre-independence veterans and their widows in 48 Countries across the World, including in The Gambia. These funds, provided by the generosity of the British public, are for the relief of poverty and hardship and granted to eligible beneficiaries. Those who qualify for the grant are either veterans who served the British Crown prior to their country gaining independence or one surviving, eligible widow after the veteran has deceased and who are living in poverty.  RCEL do not support dependents or other family members with grants. Since 2019, with additional funding from the UK Government, RCEL has been able to increase the size of the grants disbursed to eligible beneficiaries.  These grants are for the relief of poverty and are not an acknowledgement of pension entitlement or any other allowance.

This increased support from 2019 was designed to provide veterans in the twilight of their years with a level of dignity that they might not otherwise have experienced. Delivery of this support in The Gambia has been coordinated through the Gambia Legion. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented particular challenges with the delivery of the cash payments and the RCEL are working hard to find ways to reach those veterans affected whilst ensuring that every care is taken to protect their health and safety and that of our caseworkers distributing the funds in-country.

In a statement by Christopher Warren, Secretary General of the RCEL, “we are proud of the support we have been able to provide to the veterans and eligible widows in The Gambia over many years …… We understand that a newly-constituted WWII Veterans Family Association has registered concerns over payments to certain individuals and the RCEL have reached out to them to find out the details so that we can take any necessary steps to reach eligible individuals.”  Any claims by ineligible beneficiaries will be treated as fraudulent and legal proceedings may follow.