Merton veteran expresses concern over care for ex-soldiers ahead of Remembrance Day


Some veterans feel ignored by the government.


By Alice Todman

Commuters at Wimbledon Station got a surprise yesterday when greeted by the sound of bagpipes as the country began gearing up for Remembrance Day.

Thousands will wear poppies on coats, bags and alternative headgear on Sunday, but an ex-serviceman says the government does not help veterans enough.

Billy White, Ex-Royal Marine Division Commander, and Secretary of the Wimbledon branch of the Royal British Legion, criticised the government’s attitude.

Mr White, who was selling poppies outside the station, said: “The government doesn’t care about veterans. We need the Poppy Appeal because somebody’s got to look after them.”

He raised £5000 single-handedly in just one day last year and will be Standard Bearer at Wimbledon’s Remembrance Day service on Sunday.

He said: “We aim to raise one million pounds in one day. If we did it for three days we could raise three million.”

Things are different in America where veterans are better looked after, he added.

Phil Riding, 22, was also selling poppies outside Wimbledon Station.

Mr Riding has served in a number of locations including Cancún and Afghanistan.

He said: “The Poppy Appeal is really important, but it’s been a bit

“It shouldn’t just be one day, it should be all year round.”

Mr White added he has permanent poppy boxes in pubs so people can donate at any time.

Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron announced £3.8million funding for mental health charities for troops, families and veterans.

Dr Hugh Milroy, CEO of Veteran’s Aid, one of the charities to benefit from the scheme, said: “I’m very grateful for the funding and I wasn’t expecting it.”

Dr Milroy said there are a lot of urban myths about veterans, and post-traumatic stress is quite a rare occurrence.

Veteran’s Aid deal with mental health problems, substance abuse, homelessness, eviction and debt.

It also helps Commonwealth soldiers having problems with leave to stay in the country.

“The government does a lot, there is the armed forces covenant, and there is more than enough provision. You’re lucky if you’re a veteran because there is so much help.

“I’m happy the government is paying attention,” he added.

But he said he was wary of too much government interference.

“My worry is that it could end up being about politics when it should be about need not politics,” he explained.

He said some people will always fall through, but that’s the same with anything else in society.

If there were more veterans’ events throughout the year he would probably not attend, he added.

“Veterans are just the same as anyone else, they are part of society. People shouldn’t be defined by what they do. Would you define yourself by where you went to Primary School? That would be ludicrous, but it’s the same thing,” Dr Milroy said.

The Poppy Appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign, which is focusing on the families of the armed forces this year.

Wimbledon’s Remembrance Day Service starts at Wimbledon War Memorial 10.40am on Sunday November 10.

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