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Marine life - staying on course!

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Royal Navy female
Photo courtesy of the RNRMC

It’s not always possible to steer a steady course in life – even when you are the son of two naval personnel!

This is what Jonathan Millen found when – on a whim – he decided to leave his post in the Home Office and head for Spain to take a year out. That was nearly ten years ago – and Jonathan is still there, living just an hour from Tarragona.

His parents were both in the services. His mother, Heather, was in the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and a Leading Wren. She was possibly, says Jonathan, the first woman to become a Marine. She served for four years in Culdrose, on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, a Royal Naval Air Station.

It was then that she met her husband who went on to serve in the navy for 25 years. Jonathan was born in the south of England during that time.

Like many at the time, Heather and her husband calculated that, just short of pension age, they could afford to retire early and live on what they had if they moved to Spain where the cost of living was lower. That was around 2004.

Again, like many others who had made that move, the changes to the global economy that followed shattered that dream. It became difficult to make ends meet. Property values plummeted and prices rose.

Around this time, Heather’s health began to deteriorate. A long-term diabetic, she also developed osteoporosis and multiple health conditions. Her mobility was severely affected.

By then, her husband had returned to the UK, so Jonathan stayed on as his mum’s carer. That meant that he had to sort out residency, but as an unpaid carer could not meet the financial threshold to qualify. His mother’s five-year residency permit had long expired which meant she was ineligible for many of the benefits that she would have got from the Spanish government.

‘I had read that the UK Government was funding Age in Spain to give support to people trying to get residency, and that’s why I contacted them in the first place.

Kayte Locke our Casework Manager - smiling woman portrait
Kayte Locke our Casework Manager

‘In the discussion with them, it emerged that my mum was born in Northern Ireland and that she – and I – would be eligible for Irish Passports. So, we switched tracks and pursued that option. Age in Spain was very helpful in this. I also mentioned that my mother was a former Wren and they explained that there might well be support from naval charities. I had not realised that at all. ‘

‘I can’t speak highly enough of Age in Spain’s Kayte Locke. She was able to signpost me to getting attendance allowance from the UK – I hadn’t expected that we’d be entitled to that either. And she encouraged me to look at carer’s allowance, too. I filled out the forms and benefitted from Kayte’s advice.

‘The application was successful, and the higher rate allowance I received

has made all the difference.’

‘Age in Spain approached the Wren’s charity the Women's Royal Naval Service Benevolent Trust and they provided funds to pay for the funeral.’

Jonathan is still surprised at how helpful Age in Spain were because they could signpost him to so many sources of help to which he was entitled, as well as to charitable support should it be needed.

He is passing on the information about naval charities to his father who, thankfully, is still hale and hearty – and keeping up the military connection by volunteering with the British Legion.


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