Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Help coming for war veterans

Published:Monday | March 21, 2016 | 3:00 AMBarbara Ellington
Erica Myers-Tattersall spends time with 92-year-old Horatio Baxter, a veteran of the Royal Air Force at Curphey Home.
Erica Myers-Tattersall (left) with 90-year-old Eileen Vernon of the Women's Royal Army Corps and Lt Col Kirk Johnson, commanding officer, First Battalion, the Jamaica Regiment, pose for the camera.
Author and Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League council member for Jamaica, Erica Myers-Tattersall, shares a laugh with HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (right), at a reception at St James’s Palace, London. Her husband, Stephen Tattersall (centre), was recently in Jamaica visiting veterans at the Curphey Home and conducting research for her doctoral thesis. Myers-Tattersall's book ‘Under One Flag’ charts the contribution of ethnic and indigenous people of the Commonwealth to the British war effort.
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Erica Myers-Tattersall, also known as Lady Erica, and council member for Jamaica representing Jamaican veterans who served the British Crown at the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League, has a passion for war veterans from her homeland.

In Jamaica, there are 100 or more living veterans who have served in World War II, and there are some elderly veterans of wars still living at the Curphey Home, Cross Keys, in South Manchester.

Lady Erica, who was recently in Jamaica to conduct research for her doctoral thesis, spoke with The Gleaner about her role in helping to raise funds from the United Kingdom and Canada to provide support to the veterans who are in need.

"If readers are interested in helping our veterans who fought for our freedom, or their widows, they can make a donation to the Jamaica Legion that administers our work locally. We urgently need to raise J$1.5 million to renovate the Curphey Home property in Manchester," Lady Erica said.

During her stay, the bubbly Lady Erica visited Curphey Home in her capacity as the council member. She said she found the vets in good spirits and being wonderfully looked after by the team of caregivers. But, alas, the dormitories and other parts of the building are in urgent need of renovation, due to damage caused by a termite infestation.

"No one sleeps in the affected sections of the home because they can't be used, making the number of available spaces for veterans in need severely limited. We need the money to renovate the dormitories, as well as the matron and assistant matron's sleeping quarters. Another urgent need at the facility is the access road to the property which was dug up by a bauxite mining company that subsequently ceased operations without fixing it. It's really difficult to access the property," Lady Erica told The Gleaner.

 

How to get help

 

Any Jamaican male or female veteran who served in the British Armed Forces at any point - whether recently or as far back as World War II - and who is in dire financial need, can request assistance from the Jamaica Legion. They must have their service number and proper identification. They can contact the welfare officer at the Legion for an assessment of their claim and needs.

The League is more than 90 years old and now has Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, as its grand president. They meet twice a year in London at Buckingham Palace to discuss matters that concern veterans who once served but live outside of the United Kingdom. They support some 12,000 veterans who live in Commonwealth countries, said Lady Erica, who has also authored a book about the veterans' contribution.

The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League was founded in 1921 by Field Marshal Earl Haig and General Smuts. Its aim, as defined then, is to "ensure that no Commonwealth ex-serviceman or woman is without help if in need". This aim remains the main purpose of the League today.

To support our veterans, everyone is encouraged to buy a poppy during the months when they are sold in order to raise much needed funds. Also visit the Jamaica Legion at jamaicalegion@yahoo.com or call 926-2381.

barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com