THE family of Earby soldier L/Cpl Jordan Bancroft said they were “devastated” after the Ministry of Defence told them it was taking back money paid to him in the days after his death.
The hero soldier, described by comrades as a “Lion of England”, was killed in Afghanistan on August 21st, 2010. His parents Tony and Sheila Bancroft received a letter from the MoD which said his salary for the full month had been paid at the time, but the “overpayment” for the 10 days following his death had been knocked off an amount owed to Jordan’s estate in holiday pay.
Tony said reading the letter had been “worse than a jab in the eye with a sharp stick”.
He said: “I had to read it again to get my head round it. The line that does the most damage is talking about ‘his untimely death’ as if it was inconvenient he died before pay day. It is mindless bureaucracy.”
The letter from the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre said: “Following your son’s untimely death, a salary payment for the full month of August, 2010 was paid into his bank account. This included £433.13 in respect of pay for days after the date of death.
“Not wishing to cause further distress, or potential hardship to yourself at that time, the MoD took no action to recover the overpayment.
“However, now a further sum is due to Jordan’s estate in respect of the pay, the ‘overpayment’ has been offset.”
Tony said the insensitive letter was particularly galling as Jordan’s friends and family have raised thousands of pounds over the last year for Help for Heroes and the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, in which Jordan served.
“We know this has nothing to do with the Regiment at all,” he said. “But Jordan’s friends and family have just handed a cheque over for £10,000 from the sales of a calendar they made and they’ve done sponsored walks and bike rides. This feels like a kick in the teeth.”
Jordan was in the Army for nine years, serving in Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was shot in the head by an insurgent while defending an important meeting in Helmand province between village elders and security forces.
After an inquest into his death was held a few weeks ago, his family said it had given them some closure.
Tony said: “It answered a lot of questions and raised others too but we were more or less coming to terms with what had happened. This just opens up old wounds, and so unnecessarily.
“The reason he had holiday pay due was he was second in command of the Anzio Company and when everyone else was on leave he was getting extra training in. He was so dedicated to his job but to the bureaucrats Jordan was just a number. It is nothing to do with the money, it is the principle.
“If the person who wrote the letter came knocking on the door it wouldn’t mean anything. If they really were sorry, they wouldn’t have sent the letter in the first place.
“What if there are people who thought about joining the army who hear about this and think ‘well they wouldn’t give two monkeys about me’?
“When Jordan joined the army he thought he was going to be looked after. He just wanted to make a difference. He would have been appalled by this letter and the soldiers he served with will be too.”
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said he had written to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, asking him to look at the case.
He said: “It beggars belief that someone can be so insensitive. You have to wonder which planet some people live on. Jordan didn’t just give his life but his family and friends have done a tremendous job raising money for other soldiers and their families.
“According to the MoD it is generally accepted practice but the problem in instances like this is it is not about the money. It should just never have happened. Even if they apologise it is rather hollow. The pain to the family has already been caused.
“I want the MoD to admit they got it wrong and for them to treat bereaved families better in their policies.
“We have some people in the MoD who are ex-armed services but all too often you get people who have never served and are as far removed from common sense as they are the front line.”
A spokesman for the MoD said: “We regret any distress this has caused for the family. We never ask families of those killed in service to pay money back. If there is an overpayment of salary and further payments are due to an estate, adjustments are made to ensure families receive what they are owed.
“A recent improvement means families of those killed in service receive payment for leave due, but of course overpayments need to be taken into account at the same time. Every case involving death in action must be handled with particular care and to achieve this we strive to have clear rules to ensure the system operates fairly for all.”