The son of a late Normandy veteran, who never claimed a penny in compensation for almost 40 years, said he has been left feeling ‘appalled’ by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after it demanded his 91-year-old mother pay back around £60 from his war pension following his death.
David Edwards died in November 2020 at the age of 95, more than 75 years after fighting to liberate France at D-Day in 1944.
As a soldier with the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, 53rd Welsh Division, Mr Edwards was shot in the leg in 1944, but returned to the frontline to fight through into the Netherlands and Germany.
Normandy veteran David Edwards, pictured with his wife Diane before his death aged 95 last November, never claimed a penny of compensation for almost 40 years
Diane was shocked to receive a demand from the Ministry of Defence for £61.17 to be paid back
Last month his 91-year-old widow Diane, from Abergavenny, Wales, received a letter from the MoD asking for £61.17 of her late husband’s war pension to be paid back.
He was paid a pension every 24th of the month, but because he had died on the 17 November last year there had been an ‘overpayment’.
The war hero’s son Chris, 63, a retired social care worker, says he is ‘appalled’ by the way his father’s pension money was handled, and the letter sent to his mother.
David served as a soldier with the 2nd Battalion Monmoutshire Regiment, 53rd Welsh Division
The veteran was shot in the leg in 1944 but returned to fight into the Netherlands and Germany
He said: ‘I don’t think the letter should have been sent. It’s so petty, that amount of money is not going to change the state of this country.
‘Why not take it from criminal payments, from those who have had to pay a fine through the court system or something? Not from someone who fought for their country.
‘I’m also annoyed that they sent a letter like that to my 91-year-old mother, who is of the generation who reads that money is owed and instantly worries that the bailiffs will turn up.
‘My mum has written out the cheque for the money, but I’m holding onto it for now to see if they will contact my mum and say not to worry.
‘We’ve been in touch with the MoD and they are looking into it at the moment.’
Chris, from Aberthaw, South Wales, is also calling for other veterans, like his father, to be aware that they may be entitled to a war pension that has not been paid to them.
Chris said that his father only found out he was entitled to his pension more than 40 years after the war ended, after he had retired from a 33-year career in the police.
Despite his eligibility, Mr Edwards did not receive compensation or benefits for 40 years
He said: ‘My mum was in a doctor’s surgery and she was flicking through this women’s magazine when she saw a tiny little advert saying if you’d been injured in the war you could be entitled to a War Disablement pension.
‘She went home and told my dad and he said, ‘really?’ He had no idea.
‘How many others are there like that who didn’t know about their pension money? A lot of them would have died during those 40 years.
‘I just think it’s sad – this is a generation that just gets on with things, and they get forgotten about.
‘And I’d like to know how much of an effort they really made to try and track these men down. If we can find terrorists, why can’t we find the men that fought for their country?
‘When we questioned the MoD about whether my dad should be getting a war file, they produced this big, comprehensive file on his service during the war.
‘So why hadn’t they contacted us sooner? And how many other men haven’t they contacted?
‘I just think it’s appalling, really. They deserve better than that. These people have names, they have families and personalities. They are not just a number on a form.
‘I’m rallying the call to ask why these men didn’t get contacted about their war pensions.’
Mr Edwards eventually received a pension sum of £2,000, followed by weekly payments of around £20 a week, which then rose in line with inflation over the last 15 years of his life.
But Chris added: ‘By the end he was getting monthly payments of about £200 a month.
‘But if he’d been getting that all along over the 44-year period that he should have been that’s around £122,000 he should have been owed.
‘That wasn’t given – so why ask my dad for £60 back when perhaps he should have been getting his war disablement pension a long time before?’
David Edwards, right, pictured with his son Chris, left, and Chris’ partner Kathryn Phillips
Paying tribute to his dad, Chris added that his father was a ‘hero’.
He said: ‘Dad always said ‘freedom’ was a very powerful word, but the first four letters – free – is a bit of a misnomer, because he said freedom will always cost.’
The veteran also had a school in Normandy named after him – after sheltering in an unoccupied farmhouse in 1944, and returning many years later to attempt to find the building again.
After he died last year, headteacher Caroline de Pechy described Mr Edwards as a ‘beautiful soul’.
She said: ‘I hope that in his heart, every single smile on our pupils’ faces lightened the weight of the sacrifice they made.
‘He was a beautiful soul and no doubt a great man – he leaves a legacy of tolerance and I think his legacy continues for many, many years.’
An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are looking into the details of this particular case and will engage directly with those concerned.’