Veteran battles council over lost war diaries

Claim for compensation after shed containing wartime memorabilia was broken into by contractors

Eric Edis

Eric Edis with his RAF helmet and mask, one of his few remaining wartime artifacts after his diaries went missing

A 93-year-old RAF veteran is battling Waltham Forest Council for compensation after his Second World War diaries went missing from his shed.

Eric Edis, from Woodford Green, lost the diaries when council contractors cleared out the contents of his shed last year – without his permission. He also lost his collection of newspaper cuttings from the war, plus family heirlooms such as a 150-year-old sewing machine.

Eric’s insurance company valued the losses at £4,500, although the pensioner says their sentimental value is far higher. He told the Echo: “I am really very angry. When I found out, it felt like a part of my life had been stolen.”

One of the few artifacts from the war Eric has left is his RAF helmet and mask, which he had fortuitously removed from the shed shortly before it was cleared out by the council. Eric was a tail-gunner in the war but finds it difficult to talk about his experiences.

The council first notified residents of Oak Hill Court about a problem with the estate’s ‘pram’ sheds – two rows of individually locked storage units – in October 2016. They were told that there was a health and safety problem in the shed building, thought to be asbestos, that would have to be fixed by contractors.

Eric has lived on the council estate for more than 60 years, but owns the leasehold on his flat. He told the council that he did not want anyone accessing his shed without him being present, and also said this in person to the contractors when they began the work. But Eric later discovered that his shed had been broken into – after being jemmied open – and that his possessions had disappeared.

The council initially claimed that the contents cleared from sheds while repair work was undertaken would be returned to their rightful owners, but when Eric was finally allowed to see his shed he found that his war diaries and other possessions had been replaced by a bag containing household items, including a cafetière, that didn’t belong to him.

He said: “I don’t think my diaries will be found. Lots of people have looked for my things but the council made such a cock-up of it. I called the police but they wouldn’t give me a crime number. I asked them if the council were allowed to break into my property, and what would happen if I broke into the town hall?

“Now it’s with my insurance company and they will make sure the council pay me back. But I probably won’t see my diaries again.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are investigating the insurance claim arising from this allegation, in line with our normal procedures.”

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