JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Jamaicans are being encouraged to assist in the welfare of the country’s ex-service men, by donating to the cause.
  • This has been the goal of the Island Council for Jamaica Legion, which maintains the Curphey Home in Newport, Manchester.
  • Through its annual National Poppy Appeal, now underway, the legion is seeking to raise funds to maintain the home.

As the world community prepares to recognize the sacrifices of war veterans on Remembrance Day, Monday, November 11, Jamaicans are being encouraged to assist in the welfare of the country’s ex-service men, by donating to the cause.

Having fought valiantly alongside servicemen from other countries, during the two most extensive global conflicts of all time – World War I (1914 to 1918) and World War II (1939 to 1945), it is only fitting that Jamaica’s war veterans be given the opportunity to enjoy their twilight years in comfort.

This has been the goal of the Island Council for Jamaica Legion, which maintains the Curphey Home in Newport, Manchester, a residential facility for indigent ex-servicemen and women.

Founded in 1958, the home, which is the only establishment of its kind in Jamaica, provides food, clothing and nursing for residents on a daily basis. There are currently 13 residents at the facility.

Through its annual National Poppy Appeal, now underway, the legion is seeking to raise funds to maintain the home and assist the welfare of other ex-servicemen across the island.

Chairman of the Legion, Colonel (Ret’d) Torrance Lewis, tells JIS News that in addition to running the Curphey Home, the funds go toward the general support of ex-servicemen through grants and pensions.

He says that there are approximately 200 veterans still living across the island, who are no longer self-sufficient. The widows are also taken care of even when the war veterans pass on.

“We would like people to contribute as much as possible. Every time they see a poppy tin, just drop something in it. That is the main source of getting funds to maintain the health of the ex-service men. Sometimes, they are people who have served before there was the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), they have no medical cover and so we have to finance their entire welfare. We also give the existing ex-service men, those who are needy, we give them a grant each month. In fact, we will be paying out a grant monthly to about 100 ex-servicemen,” he informs.

Shortly before and during the observance of Remembrance Day, cans are normally distributed to collect funds in exchange for paper poppies. Colonel Lewis informs that the donation cans and poppies are placed in various stores, banks, and other places. Cadets are also on the streets with tins asking for donations.

“We also send out letters to companies and the National Poppy Appeal has different fund raising sessions – band concerts, fish fry… whatever it is, different ways of raising money for the funds, and the aim usually is to try and get as much as would maintain the Curphey Home, which cost in the region of about $6 million or $7 million a year to maintain it,” he notes.

Colonel Lewis informs that the Jamaica Legion gets a grant from the Government of about $650,000 a month to assist the ex-soldiers. The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the British World Government League also provide support.

For war veteran, Arthur (Roy) Knight, this gesture to improve the lives and recognise the contributions of ex-servicemen is significant, as during the wars, they faced injury and death every day, even while not on duty.

Only 20 years old when he enlisted, the now 88 year-old former Right Lieutenant, who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, tells JIS News that he risked his life to serve his country and to ensure a free world.

“If Germany had won the war, we would be slaves. So I felt very well to have served. (Adolph) Hitler wasn’t a nice man you know? Hitler was a serious man; he wanted to conquer the world,” he asserts.

There were about 4, 000 to 5,000 Jamaicans, who were involved in the wars. Many Jamaicans served in the Royal Air Force. Others joined the ground forces of the British army and the Canadian forces.

The nation will celebrate Remembrance Day or Veterans’ Day (as it is referred to in the United States) on Sunday, November 10, with the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the War Memorial epitaph, National Heroes Park.

The day is observed in Jamaica on the Sunday closest to the November 11 day, when the First World War came to an end.

In addition to the national ceremony, which will feature cannon blasts and moments of silence for the veterans, Remembrance Day celebrations will be held island-wide. Members of the public are invited to attend any of these ceremonies at epitaphs in all parish capitals, which are organised by the custodes and parish councils.

The National Heroes Park celebrations will include: uniformed groups parade and laying of floral tributes by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice, Mayor of Kingston, JDF Chief of Defence Staff, Commissioner of Police, as well as several representatives from the diplomatic corps.

The Commissioner of Corrections, Chairman of the Jamaica Legion and representatives of St. John Ambulance and the Royal Air Force, will also place floral tributes in memory for those who died in the war while serving the country.