Widow’s anger at MoD’s ‘lack of compassion’

TRAGEDY Barrie Sparham OBE died from exposure to asbestos while working at Portsmouth Dockyard
TRAGEDY Barrie Sparham OBE died from exposure to asbestos while working at Portsmouth Dockyard

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THE widow of a Portsmouth man awarded an OBE for his work with the Armed Forces has hit out at the Ministry of Defence after he died from an asbestos-related disease.

Barrie Sparham died aged 67 from mesothelioma – a lung cancer caused by asbestos.

Barrie pictured in 1963

Barrie pictured in 1963

The MoD has admitted liability and will pay compensation for exposing Mr Sparham to the toxic material at Portsmouth Dockyard in the 1960s.

His wife Sue said: ‘I’m very angry about what has happened.

‘They have poisoned my husband. If I went up to the MoD and poisoned someone I’d be locked up for murder.’

Mr Sparham, who grew up in Hambledon and Denmead, was diagnosed with mesothelioma two years ago and died recently.

He was exposed to asbestos while working as a fitter in the engine rooms of ships at Portsmouth Dockyard.

‘He used to say you could see the asbestos particles in the air,’ said his widow.

‘It’s the most awful, filthy disease. He just got weaker and weaker because of the disease taking over his chest and he lost his voice towards the end.

‘All the medical people could not get it under control. You can imagine how angry I felt knowing there was nothing I or anyone could do.’

Mr Sparham was approached by the Ministry of Defence in 1991 to make reinforced vehicles to carry supplies to ground troops in the first Gulf War. He was recognised for his efforts with an OBE from the Queen in 1992.

Mrs Sparham said: ‘Barrie was delighted to help and it was a job which he achieved with great success and under considerable pressure.

‘He was always hands-on, adapting designs and sorting out production problems to ensure deadlines were met.’

But his widow is unhappy that while her husband gave such dedicated service to his country, he had already been dealt a deadly hand some 30 years before.

She said: ‘No-one seems to care. We’ve not had as much as an apology from the MoD.’

In a statement, an MoD spokesman would only say: ‘When compensation claims are received they are considered on the basis of whether or not there is a legal liability to pay compensation.’

Apprentice worked his way to the top

BARRIE Sparham OBE lost his battle against mesothelioma last month having been diagnosed with the cancer two years ago.

He was born in Hambledon in 1944.

He studied engineering as an apprentice at Her Majesty’s Dockyard, Portsmouth, in 1960 where he was exposed to asbestos.

After a five-year apprenticeship, Barrie went to work for a number of companies and by the age of 28 he was manager of Deep Sea Seals in Havant.

He left to join Ferguson Tankers in Portsmouth which was bought out by Reynolds Boughton in 1982.

He was relocated as managing director of the firm’s Devon plant in Winkleigh in 1982 and in 1991 he was approached by the Ministry of Defence to make water and fuel-carrying equipment for the first Gulf War – a role that saw him receive an OBE from the Queen in 1992.

He semi-retired the following year and set up his own consultancy business which he later operated from home.

Barrie met his wife Sue at Denmead youth club in 1963 and married in 1968, moving to Westbourne, West Sussex. The couple had two daughters before moving to Devon in 1982.