Friday 26 November 2010
A Shame Which Must Be Set Right
Sergeant Matthew Telford, 37, of the Grenadier Guards, died in Afghanistan as a result of an attack from what was described as a rogue attack from an Afghan policeman who opened fire on the compound in which they sought respite. Four other British soldiers were killed in the attack and all were acknowledged as being 'brave and courageous' by our then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Sgt Telford was promoted to that rank in June 2009 but in November last year he was killed.
His wife will only receive a Corporal's pension because Sgt Telford had held the rank of Sgt for less than a year. He was killed on active service whilst wearing a Sgt's stripes and operating as one.
This 'flaw' in the military pension system strikes a nerve with me. I know of someone - a ranking officer - who was promoted and was operating in Ireland during the troubles as a Major, having been promoted 10 months before. The man had served in the army for over 30 years with a distinguished service. Sgt Telford's record was similar.
When my friend was back in the UK for a long awaited week's leave, he had a heart attack; in fact he had two in one day and was fortunately enough to be admitted quickly to the local hospital. They saved his life but not his job. He didn't mind, or his family, because they were happy to have him alive. Sadly, less then 2 weeks later he succumbed to a third attack. His widow was given her share of a Captain's pension because her husband hadn't been a Major for over 12 months. In 1981 the difference in the pension was over £2,000 a year. Her husband had been working as an 'acting Major' for many months prior to his official promotion. Being an 'acting' rank counts for nothing in pension speak.
What I can't discover was if Sgt Telford was in an 'acting capacity' prior to his promotion but, I do know that in conflict situations that doesn't occur for long. The military want their chain of command to be strong and those in 'acting' promotions may not hold the same authority as the accredited rank.
I'm unsure if Sgt Telford's promotion was announced in the press but I do know my friend's was in the early 80s. It looked impressive at the time seeing his promotion in print after the months he'd spent as 'acting Major'. This is another way our politicians - who are responsible for MoD websites - to opt out of taking responsibility for all they offer new recruits on their website.
Why should Sgt Telford's widow be left with a reduction in her due pension when none of the other services would tolerate that for one minute? Can you imagine the police, fire service or ambulance service allowing this insult? Of course not. But our military do not believe in unions and I very much respect that. Believe me, I've been weary over the years in my attempts to bring the inconsistencies which exist for our armed forces and other public services.
If you feel they deserve better, in the honour of Sgt Telford, I would ask you to sign this petition.
If you're in doubt, please think about these highly paid public servants who are provided with golden handshakes and pensions which are equivalent to what many earn in a lifetime.
I doubt if Mrs Telford is concerned about the money she will received for the rest of her life, she would much rather have her well-loved husband back. It's up to people who are unemotionally involved to help right this wrong.