A SECOND World War veteran has spoken of his heartbreak at being forced apart from his wife of more than 70 years.

Christchurch resident Dennis Lilley, 93, has been living alone at his flat since his partner Gladys, 91, was placed into a care home.

Members of their family said the couple had never spent a day apart since their wedding on June 11, 1949, before she was moved to Avon View Care Home last month.

This was after an assessment by BCP Council’s adult social care team.

Daughter Barbara Green and son-in-law Victor Fresle told the Daily Echo that concerns have been raised by Dennis’s doctor about the deterioration of his health and the need for him to also receive care.

However, following a recent visit by a council adult social care officer, the family have been told his care needs “do not meet the criteria” for a place at Avon View.

Bournemouth Echo: Dennis and Gladys Lilley tied the knot in 1949Dennis and Gladys Lilley tied the knot in 1949

Dennis, who served in Italy with the Second Battalion Royal Sussex, told the Daily Echo: “It is bad being separated like this. I just can’t understand it. They say I don’t fit the criteria.

“I have been very lonely. I feel very depressed about it.”

Asked what it would mean to be back with his wife, Dennis said: “Everything. That is why I want this to happen.

“I miss her. We have been together nearly 75 years. I want to be with her.”

He added: “I can’t understand why (it can’t happen). They talk about criteria but what is the criteria.”

Daughter Barbara, who had a transient ischaemic attack or ‘mini stroke’ on June 15, said she has watched her father get steadily worse by the day since he no longer had her mother by his side.

She said she fears he could come to great harm if he remains at the flat.

Barbara said Gladys "cries constantly" asking where Dennis is and her confused by the situation.

There have been limited opportunities for Dennis to be taken to visit Gladys but this is challenging given the Covid pandemic.

The family are continuing to press the council to reconsider the situation, with their hope that the couple can be at Avon View together.

Victor told the Daily Echo: “I find it unbelievable. They say that there are other people in this situation.

“If that is the case then it is a national disgrace.”

Bournemouth Echo: Dennis Lilley's daughter is having to provide daily support for himDennis Lilley's daughter is having to provide daily support for him

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope has put forward “strong representations” to BCP Council chief executive Graham Farrant.

Sir Christopher said: “I just hope they are going to show some humanity – that is what it is all about.

“People married for more than 70 years and they didn’t really want to split up. One party being forced to go into residential care and both parties are now being so disturbed by being split up.”

Bournemouth Echo: Christchurch MP Sir Christopher ChopeChristchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope

The Conservative MP added: “If you had two dogs that had been living together in a family for years and then they had to be rehomed and someone suggested splitting them up, everyone would ask why are you thinking of splitting up this family.”

Councillor Karen Rampton, BCP Council portfolio holder for adults, said the local authority is aware of the family’s situation, which she empathises with.

“Care assessments have been undertaken and their eligible needs met,” she said.

“However, we will continue to monitor and review the situation, as necessary, and will respond accordingly should circumstances change.”