War widows want rule keeping them single scrapped

Len Chivers, 93, left, from Old Portsmouth and Vic Merry, 92, from Southsea 
Picture: Malcolm Wells (170825-9295)

‘Our time on her was truly unforgettable’ A friendship that was forged during war

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THEIR husbands died in the service of our country, but they continue to pay the price.

Thousands of widows of men who died on active duty are in the uncomfortable position of being unable to enter a new relationship for fear of losing their war widows’ pension.

Madlaine Dunn

Madlaine Dunn

Now a campaign has started to get the rule overturned.

Madlaine Dunn, 75, of North End, is the regional officer for the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain, and represents 148 widows and associate members across Hampshire.

She said the rule was blatantly unfair.

‘They’re celebrating the centenary of the First World War and yet they’ve got this archaic attitude towards us,’ she said.

Mrs Dunn said there was a three-tiered system for war widows.

She said anyone who was widowed before 1973 was not entitled to a forces family pension, but received a war widows’ pension and a supplement.

‘They keep that for life whether they marry or cohabit with a new partner,’ she said.

People who were widowed after 2005 received a war widows’ pension and a family pension. Mrs Dunn said: ‘They get everything for life.’

But the widows who lost their partners between 1973 and 2005 are subject to harsher conditions.

Ms Dunn, who falls into that category herself, said: ‘We get a forces family pension and a war widows’ pension.

‘We’ve got the forces family pension for life, but not the war widows’ pension. If we either marry or cohabit they would take it away from us.’

She said many widows, including herself, were even reluctant to start a new relationship for fear they could lose their pension.

Ms Dunn said the campaign would involve raising awareness of the widows’ situation and lobbying MPs to put pressure on the MoD to change the rules.

Mrs Dunn said she was widowed in 1976 and left with two small children.

Her husband died after contracting a disease he picked up after years spent training soldiers in the use of gas while serving in Germany.

She said: ‘I was very young then but I couldn’t have changed my situation because I would have lost everything.

Mrs Dunn said 4,000 UK widows were faced with the same situation, and 30 of those were under the age of 30.

She said it would cost the Ministry of Defence just £35,000 a year to keep funding the pensions for the widows who would otherwise miss out.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said she supported the campaign.

She said: ‘What we don’t want to see is a system which is making it difficult for people to form future relationships.

‘It also struck me as a system that was impossible and bureaucratic to police. I understand it is a live issue for the MoD and one I follow with interest.’

An MoD spokesperson said: ‘No decision has been made to amend the War Pensions Scheme.’