Queen's guards beg for comrades' funeral expenses

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London, Dec. 21 (ANI): British soldiers attached with the Queen's Coldstream Guards are being forced to beg for cash from Christmas shoppers to help pay for the funerals of fallen comrades.

According to the Daily Express, the sight of men standing in shopping centres asking for money was last night branded a disgrace.

Critics hit out at the Government for forcing the heroes on to the streets with collection tins because they believe the families of those killed or injured are not being fully supported.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, said: "The fact that this Government has turned its fighting men into beggars is a national disgrace. All our soldiers' needs and the needs of their families should be taken care of by a Government that is proud of its fighting men. We should not have to put our hands in our pockets to help pay for the cost of a funeral or for a mother to visit her injured son in hospital.

"These Coldstreamers should not be out with the begging bowl on the Sunday before Christmas. The Government should be paying these costs," Mercer added.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: "It's utterly shameful that our soldiers are forced to beg for the most basic welfare provisions after risking their lives in Afghanistan. We should hang our heads in shame."

The outrage emerged after troops from the Coldstream Guards were seen taking up positions in full battle dress over the weekend to ask the public for donations.

The soldiers were seeking money to help families pay for funerals, to allow relatives to make hospital visits to see the injured and to convert houses for disabled servicemen.

The appeal, Support The Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan, is one of many charities set up to try to help alleviate the financial burden on servicemen's families.

The Coldstream Guards, famous for their role in guarding the Queen in their distinctive red tunics, black bearskins and Garter Star, are one of a growing number of regiments which have taken to appealing directly to the public for financial help.

The regiment, whose motto is "Second To None", launched the campaign to coincide with their tour of duty in Afghanistan, which ends in April 2010.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "The MoD places a very high priority on the welfare of its service personnel and their families. To that end, the MoD has robust procedures in place to support immediate family members of service personnel who are killed or injured while on operations, including help with funeral costs and travel expenses. There is always more that can be done, however, and we welcome all offers of charitable support for our personnel." (ANI)

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