RAF man haunted by memories of war loses fight to backdate pension to 1944

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The Independent Online

A former RAF airman who claims he was left psychologically scarred by the horror of his Second World War experiences lost his legal battle yesterday to have his war pension backdated to 1944.

David Gibbs, 78, who joined the RAF in 1942, says he is still haunted by memories of having to collect human body parts from aircraft that had returned from bombing missions over Germany. After being rejected by Bomber Command for active service, Mr Gibbs was given the job of transferring the dead bodies from the aircraft to the airforce mortuary.

In one incident, the High Court in London heard, he saw the hands of a supposedly dead young airman move, only to be told by a sergeant: "Well, once we put the lid on he won't be moving for long, will he?"

Mr Gibbs, a tailor from Leeds, was discharged from the RAF in December 1944 for medical reasons and was at the time ruled ineligible for a War Pension on the grounds that his mental state was "constitutional" and not caused by his wartime service.

Ever since he has campaigned for a pension, and won a partial victory in August 1995 when the War Pensions Appeals Tribunal ruled that his disabling mental condition had been aggravated by his wartime experiences.

The Secretary of State for Social Security reviewed Mr Gibbs' case in the light of that ruling, but in May last year held that his claim could be backdated only to June 1993.

Mr Gibbs' lawyers asked Mr Justice Hooper to overturn the minister's decision and order a fresh consideration of his case. But after reviewing the many medical reports into his condition, the judge dismissed his challenge yesterday. He said there was nothing to undermine the minister's conclusion that the original refusal of a War Pension in 1944, and other rejections that followed, were "on the material then available, reasonable".

Mr Gibbs was refused permission to appeal, but may still ask the Court of Appeal directly for a hearing.

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