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The Real Unknown Soldier - Lest We Forget...

As Whitehall bows its collective head to rightly remember the fallen of a century's wars, the Conservative Party should bow theirs in shame for the callous and cruel punishment they have inflicted on Britain's real 'unknown soldiers'.

While the bands play and finely crafted wreaths are laid at the Cenotaph, there will be dozens of homeless ex-servicemen within easy walking distance. An estimated one in ten of Britain's homeless are former members of the armed services.

Thousands of ex-servicemen and women face a daily struggle, some with life-changing physical disabilities, many more with 'invisible' problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The response of this government, and its predecessors: Harsh benefit cuts and sanctions and starving the NHS of vital funding for mental health and other services.

The name of Northern Ireland veteran David Clapson does not appear on any war memorial, but nevertheless, he died for his country - because his country's ruling elite rewarded his service by allowing him to die alone, penniless and suffering from malnutrition after stopping his £71.70 a week benefits because he missed one appointment.

Mr Clapson, a diabetic, was unable to afford the electricity to refrigerate his insulin. He died from a severe lack of insulin. There was also no food found in his stomach. The coroner ruled that it was death by natural causes. I hope that he will cross their minds at the post-Cenotaph banquet....but I doubt it will.

In Manchester last year, an 82-year-old man known only as George died just hours after being evicted from a derelict building where he had been sleeping. Those who knew George remembered particularly that the elderly veteran 'always wore his medals'. He survived enemy fire only to be killed, in peacetime, by his own 'side'. He had been on the streets for 20 years.

Whether in war or peacetime, the result remains the same - they died as a result of decisions made by their government. Mr Clapson's sister Gill is currently pursuing legal action to try and get justice for her brother.

Her law firm Leigh Day has argued that a fresh investigation should be opened into David's death, on the basis that he died an unnatural death due to the imposition and effects of the benefit sanction, arguing that the sanction was a contributing or causative factor.

Another former soldier, Billy Gage, found himself homeless after a mental breakdown. He was abused and attacked when sleeping rough. People spat at him. He was urinated on. He was ignored by the government of the country he risked his life for.

Richard Storer served in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan during his 21-year Army career. He was invalided out of the Army with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and needs medication to help him cope. Last winter, he was forced to start sleeping in his car after having to leave his MOD accommodation. His local council refused to recognise him as homeless.

There are many, many more - in researching this piece I searched 'homeless soldier death uk' amongst other things. The results would make you weep. They should.

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