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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 01:37 GMT
One Gulf War veteran's story
Gulf soldier vaccinated
Gulf War veterans blame vaccinations for illnesses
Disability will stop former RAF corporal Richie Turnbull from joining other Gulf War veterans on the 10th anniversary march in London but he will pay his own tribute.

The 49-year-old will lay a wreath on Saturday near his home in Flintshire, North Wales, on the grave of a 19-year-old who died in a road accident while serving in the Gulf.

He blames the cocktail of vaccinations he was given when he served in the conflict 10 years ago for his own catalogue of illnesses, including losing the use of one leg.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says it is keeping an open mind on so-called Gulf War Syndrome but says there is no evidence directly linking veterans' illnesses to vaccinations or depleted uranium weapons.

US troops in a Gulf shelter
Former RAF corporal Richie Turnbull worked on biological warfare shelters

Mr Turnbull said he was given 13 vaccinations in just 10 minutes when he was sent to be in charge of electrical work on nuclear and biological warfare shelters in the Gulf War.

He is certain the immunisation caused medical problems, which include chronic asthma, emphysema, heart problems, chronic fatigue syndrome and short-term memory loss.

He said: "I'm fighting the War Pensions Agency. It makes me feel very angry.

"The faceless suits in Whitehall and the MoD sent us to war. That's what we joined up for but we expected our families would be looked after. Unfortunately, that is not so."

'Like a skinflint insurance company'

Mr Turnbull is proud of his RAF service and said he had no argument with the force.

Instead, he blamed politicians and civil servants for the problems and described the War Pensions Agency, which administers war pensions, as a "skinflint insurance company".

"I have seen veterans fighting for war pensions pushed to the brink of suicide," said Mr Turnbull.

He told how his wife and neighbour had stopped him jumping into the River Dee during his own pensions struggle which, he said, had included 57 medical examinations.

He said he had battled to see his entitlement rise to 80%.

We expected our families would be looked after. Unfortunately, that is not so

Richie Turnbull
Gulf War veteran

War pensions are paid to those disabled while serving in the armed forces, with the levels depending on the extent of the problems.

A spokeswoman for the War Pensions Agency said claims from Gulf War veterans were more complicated than most other cases because they often involved many different medical conditions.

"They are necessarily more complicated because of that," she said, explaining former troops often added to their initial claims.

The spokeswoman said a special section had been set up to deal with Gulf War veterans and was equipped with more medical advisors than other sections.

But she defended close scrutiny of applications: "It is right and fair that we properly investigate all claims because at the end of the day it is taxpayers' money being paid out."

Extra medical examinations could, however, help ex-servicemen's cases, she added.

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