A FORMER prisoner of war is urging his WW2 comrades to take part in one final mission – by claiming their share of a £1 million Lotto fund while they still have the chance.
The lottery cash has been earmarked to pay for veterans and widows of veterans to visit the battlefields and areas they or their loved ones served in during the 1939 to 1945 conflict.
But they only have until the end of the year to claim the money.
Now former prisoner of war and Lancaster bomber crew member, Ted Cachart, 86, is on a mission to spread the word about the Lotto cash to the estimated 100,000 WW2 veterans, alive in the UK today.
He said: “Despite considerable publicity there are still many veterans or their widows who are unaware this money is available and they only have until the end of the year to lodge their claim.
“And it’s not just the Army, Air force and Navy who can apply: Merchant Navy, Auxiliary Territorial Service, Navy Wrens and in some cases members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force may also be eligible.
“Many ex-servicemen want to revisit their theatre of war to rekindle memories or friendships or visit graves. For widows it’s a chance to see where their husbands fought.”
Ted, whose crew were downed on a bombing mission to Berlin, has already used the fund to visit two of his wartime bases in Avignon and Nice. He has also been to Germany.
He said: “The idea is it allows you to pay the respect of remembrance. I had three very good friends all buried in Europe. I got to visit the graves of two of them.”
Five levels of grants are available from the Big Lotto Fund, a Government sponsored body responsible for doling out money to good causes.
Veterans and widows can claim from £150 for travelling in Britain, up to £5,500 for those who served in the far east. Those who have funded their own travel may also be able to reclaim some of the costs.
Ted, who joined the air force at 15, fibbed about his age to become the youngest ever bomber command crew member, added: “It’s important to remember. And if you’re fit enough, then the money is there for the taking. My mission is to let people know it’s there.”
John Babbage, 65, managing director of travel company World War Two Heritage Tours, who specialise in trips to theatres of war said:
“We have had a number of clients who have taken advantage of the scheme, going to Normandy and Italy and some all the way Thailand to visit the bridge on the river Kwai.
“But I’m surprised how many of our customers were previously unaware that it even exists. As for many the form completing can be somewhat daunting we’re now offering people free advice.”
Lotto Fund, said that since 2004 £28million had been awarded through the scheme which was due to finish in January this year. But an extra £1 million has now been made available to fund more trips, but only until the end of 2011.