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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 06:31 GMT
Philip wants 5m for war veterans
Battle of Britain
247 Caribbean pilots flew in the Battle of Britain
The Duke of Edinburgh is launching an appeal to raise 5m for Commonwealth veterans of World War II.

The appeal, marking the Queen's Golden Jubilee, also aims to increase public awareness about the struggle faced by many such former soldiers.

Five million Commonwealth volunteers fought alongside the six million British forces in the war.

Hari, from India, is one of the cases highlighted by BCEL
Hari, from India, served as an Engineer in 1943-46, but is now bedridden and needs medical help
But, says the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League, unlike their British counterparts they did not get war pensions and many do not receive welfare from their own countries.

Now, many veterans are in their 70s, 80s and 90s and are unable to fend for themselves any longer.

Last year the charity helped 28,000 veterans and this number is expected to grow to up to 150,000 during the next few years, as the veterans age.

'Keeping people alive'

BCEL says the demand for its funds is such that at the moment it can often offer only 20 meals a month where it aims to provide at least a meal a day.

Spokeswoman June Beedham told BBC News: "The problem arises in the poorer Commonwealth countries where they have struggling economies.

"For example, one of the organisations in India has 6,500 people living in poverty on their books, and we are trying to keep those people alive."

The Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh nominated the charity for Golden Jubilee donations
She pointed out that many of the Commonwealth veterans played a vital part in the war, even though they may have been forgotten about in the history books.

"For example, 247 Caribbean fighter pilots flew in the Battle of Britain - that was defending our shores and our country, and that was nowhere near their homelands in the West Indies."

She said Britain had usually arranged some money to deal with the veterans when their country gained independence, but with time and other problems the funds were simply no longer there.

Money raised by the league is dispensed through a network of ex-service organisations across 47 Commonwealth countries.

BCEL is one of the six Golden Jubilee charities to which the Queen has said people should donate if they wished to mark the year with a gift.

The others are Barnardo's, Cruse Bereavement Care, I-Can for children with speech and language difficulties, The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, and SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) Forces Help.

See also:

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