Wife of WWII Veteran Claims a Salt Habit from WWII is to Blame for Death

The Brisbane Times reports the story of a widow of a World War Two veteran and her request to receive war widow’s pension. She successfully won her case after she argued that her husband’s excessive salt intake was the direct result of his time at war.

Clement Hutton developed the dietary habit that would claim his life in the wilderness of the Papua New Guinea jungle in World War II.

The troopers were station in the tropics and they were given salt supplements and salt-laden food. This led Hutton to believe the mineral was crucial to prevent dehydration.

Once he returned from the war, he used salt in excess… For 70 years. He would sprinkle salt on apples, porridge and rice. His favorite snack was SAO biscuit with cheese and tomato with a heavy dose of salt.

His wife, Shirley, said he always wanted salt on the table.

Late last year, Hutton’s dependence on salt and where he developed it was the subject of a hearing at Queensland’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Mrs. Hutton was fighting for war widow’s pension. She claimed her husband’s use of salt was the result of a belief the army had instilled in him. She argued that it caused the hypertension which caused a fatal stroke that he ultimately died from in April 2012.

Bernard J McCabe, a senior tribunal member, agreed with Mrs. Hutton.

In late December, McCabe found Mr. Hutton’s salt use was the direct result of his time in the army and awarded his with a widow’s pension.

When McCabe examined the case, he had to determine whether Mr. Hutton’s unusual craving for salt developed at war or if he had it before he was sent to fight in the Pacific.

Mr. Hutton’s family gave evidence stating that this was not the case.

One daughter testified that her grandmother’s food was never as salty as the food which her mother had prepared for her father and the rest of the family.

McCabe said this was crucial evidence that Mr. Hutton’s habit was the result of being in the war, despite the Repatriation Commission arguing no material supported the theory.

“The evidence suggests Mr Hutton’s salt preference was not a product of his own mother’s cooking, and that he was not an excessive salt user when he lived with her before the war,” he said.

McCabe stated both daughters gave evidence detailing their father’s life post war. They stated their father often justified the salt intake by arguing it was essential to avoid dehydration in hot climates.

Mr. Hutton worked a majority of his life as a cane cutter and a farmer near the Sunshine Coast.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE