Leeds war widow Susan Rimmer "punished for finding love"

Susan Rimmer lost her first husband during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and is campaigning for war widows exempt from state compensation.
Susan Rimmer lost her first husband during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and is campaigning for war widows exempt from state compensation.
0
Have your say

HUNDREDS OF war widows are being punished for finding love again as they find themselves cut off from their late husband’s pensions.

Despite Government reforms allowing women to keep the compensation given after their partner’s death when they remarry, an anomaly in the rules has meant that up to 300 women still do not qualify.

Leeds woman Susan Rimmer outside the Houses of Parliament in Central London.

Leeds woman Susan Rimmer outside the Houses of Parliament in Central London.

Currently those who re-married between 1973 and 2005 and who were in receipt of the war widows pension have not been included in recent changes.

Otley woman Susan Rimmer joined Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland for a meeting with Defence minister Mark Lancaster in Westminster to try make the case for equal treatment.

She said: “It’s not about the money. I’m used to not having it - it’s the principle. It’s an insult. I was 19 and six months pregnant.

“We knew the money stopped. But it was the fact David Cameron said the pensions would start again and I’m a war widow, and I never got it.”

Susan lost her first husband Private James Lee more than 40 years ago when he was only 25.

The Leeds-born soldier and his section were returning from a patrol in an armored vehicle just north of the village of Crossmaglen in South Armagh, when a bomb planted by Irish republican terrorists exploded under their vehicle.

Pte Lee, who served with the 1st Battalion the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, died instantly. He had been due to return home in just two weeks.

On the day of his funeral the town of Otley, where he grew up, ground to a halt as his coffin, mounted on a gun carriage, wound through the streets lined with mourners.

Mrs Rimmer gave birth to her and Pte Lee’s daughter Donna-Marie three months after his death.

She had received the war widows pension until 1989 when she married Dave Rimmer, also a soldier.

Current rules mean that if a man or woman is widowed before 2005 and they re-marry before April 1 2015, they have to give up their War Widow Pension.

However if you were widowed after 2005 you could keep a state income.

Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland, said: “It remains an injustice that there is a small group of people - two to three hundred - nearly all women, who are still in a

situation where having found love and remarried they are not getting that compensation.”

“You are seeing something that is very old fashioned and very inappropriate, and really very cruel. The idea that you should be punished if you were lucky enough to find love and re-marry again. The reality, such as the case of Susan Rimmer, is that she lost her husband when she was just 19.

“The idea that having gone through that awful trauma, that she was lucky enough to meet someone else years later, and that somehow she doesn’t deserve any money from the state, nor does her daughter, is a clear injustice.

“We still have this situation where bureaucracy is blocking justice.”

The Ministry of Defence ruled last year that from April 2015, those who “remarry, cohabit or form a civil partnership” would be entitled to payments for life.

Mr Mulholland said now the principle has been established for one set of widows, it should be in place for others whose husbands gave their lives for their country.

Mrs Rimmer said it was “brilliant” to see so many backing the cause. She said: “I’ve never ever met another war widow. They are all the same as me, every single one of them.”