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Debrief Your impact on the lives of blind veterans


You’re helping veterans achieve

Victory Over Blindness INSIDE: p.3 Your support in 2018 p.10 March is for veterans p.22 Star supporters

You’re helping end isolation I

know from my own experience that losing your sight affects every aspect of your life. Things you take for granted, like dressing yourself, making a cuppa, or even leaving the house can become daunting and frightening.

Colin Williamson Blind veteran and President of Blind Veterans UK

It’s no wonder that isolation is a real danger for many of our blind veterans. Without support they could all too easily become cut off from the world. As some of the articles in Debrief highlight, your support helps us tackle isolation – ensuring we can reach blind veterans in their homes and give them the support, training and equipment that helps them make the most of their lives. Thank you.

In this issue 4









You’re helping ROVIs tackle isolation

Saluting their dedication and self-sacrifice You paid tribute to veterans past and present 2 blindveterans.org.uk

March is for veterans

You helped Sparky into the record books

Your support helps blind veterans reach their GOAL

You helped blind veterans find their voice Ron Murray’s lasting legacy to Blind Veterans UK Your support helped end Ken's isolation

You made 2018 a fantastic year! In 2018, supporters like you played a key role in helping us increase the number of blind veterans we help. An important goal of ours was to provide our high-quality services, closer to people’s homes. This will be a crucial area of our charity’s work looking forward, as we need to help more of our older veterans avoid loneliness and isolation and live the lives they wish to. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.

We welcomed 922 new blind veterans into our charity last year.

We delivered training to 2,818 beneficiaries in their homes and at our centres.

We delivered 1,246 home visits to provide beneficiaries with training and rehabilitation.

We made 309 visits to beneficiaries in their homes to provide property maintenance and advice.

There are over 50,000 veterans who qualify for our support who we could be helping. With a gift today, you could help us ensure ex-Service men and women do not have to face sight loss on their own. blindveterans.org.uk 3

You’re helping ROVIs tackle isolation Our Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually-Impaired (ROVI) Imke Carruthers, explains how your support helps ensure blind veterans are never lonely.


s a ROVI it’s my job to visit blind veterans in their homes and assess their vision and needs to make sure they get the most out of life.

confidence to venture outside. And with his new confidence he gets out of the house much more and he’s much less anxious now.

Isolation can be a big problem. If people don’t feel confident going out or communicating they can quickly become cut off and mental health issues could follow.

Arthur told me he doesn’t know what would have happened to him if I hadn’t come into his life and that’s so lovely to hear – and that’s all thanks to kind supporters like you who make my work possible.

One of the veterans I work with, Arthur, was in quite a bad way after he lost his wife and then his guide dog was retired. He hadn’t been out in his garden for a year because he was worried about falling, so we put up handrails and refreshed his skills with a white cane, which gave him the

I recently helped another blind veteran by getting him magnifying equipment. The first thing he looked at was family photos and he wept tears of joy to see some of the faces he hadn’t seen for 10 years. Thank you for making wonderful moments like that happen.”

With a gift of £35 today, you could help provide a white cane to a blind veteran like Arthur. 4 blindveterans.org.uk

You’re helping Craig get into gear for blind veterans


n June, Craig ‘Freddie’ Lundberg, a former Corporal in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, will set off on a gruelling 1,000-mile tandem ride for Blind Veterans UK. He’ll be riding with sighted pilot Callum Edge for up to 10 days and going all the way from Land’s End to John o’Groat’s. It’s a challenge Craig didn’t think he’d ever be able to take on

after losing his sight during a rooftop battle in Basra in March 2007. Craig lost his left eye instantly and his right eye was damaged beyond repair. Incredibly, he tried to continue fighting: “I got up and demanded my rifle, but it had been bent by the force of the blast. My mate got me another rifle and I tried to carry on firing. But I only

managed a few steps before I collapsed.” Doctors managed to keep Craig alive but they couldn’t save his sight. Craig was flown back to the UK knowing he would never see again. Thanks to the kindness of supporters like you, we offered him lifelong support, starting with a rehabilitation course at our Brighton centre. Since then, we’ve helped Craig continue his recovery and he’s now taking on the tandem ride to ensure more blind veterans get the same level of support. “Blind Veterans UK was always there for me, whenever I needed them. It’s my turn to give something back.”

Craig (left) is now training full-time with his pilot Callum.

You can support Craig at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/BlindTandemChallenge blindveterans.org.uk 5

Saluting their dedication and self-sacrifice The achievements of three members of the Blind Veterans UK community were recognised in the Queen’s 2019 New Year’s Honours list. Our Chief Executive Nick Caplin said: “It is fantastic that this group have been honoured in this way. They have all made a huge contribution to our charity but also in so many other areas and these honours are richly deserved.”

Shaun Stocker Received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for service 12 blindveterans.org.uk to charities Despite losing both legs and his sight to an IED in Afghanistan, Shaun is a tireless charity fundraiser. He’s completed a number of daunting challenges to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, including climbing Mount Snowdon on his knees. Just last year Shaun completed a 1,000-mile expedition across Australia to mark the start of the Invictus Games.

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Andy Allen MLA

Joan Osborne

Awarded the MBE for his service to veterans and their families in Northern Ireland

Awarded the BEM for services to the blind

Andy was just was 19 when, in 2008, he had his right leg blown off and lost his sight after being injured by a makeshift Taliban bomb in Afghanistan. Today, Andy is the only wheelchair using member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and works tirelessly for veterans. “Thank you to the charity and the supporters. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for you. Thank you.”

91-year old Joan was first welcomed into the Blind Veterans UK family in 1931, when she accompanied her father Joe to the charity’s Manchester reunion after he had lost his sight. “When I first heard about the BEM I burst into tears, I couldn’t believe it. I have grown up with injured and blinded men. It has been my life and I have loved it, I would do it all again.”

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You paid tribute to veterans past and present B lind Veterans UK supporters like you really got behind our Victory Over Blindness campaign to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.

Commemorations began on 16 October when HRH The Countess of Wessex, unveiled our ‘Victory Over Blindness’ statue outside Manchester Piccadilly Station. The statue is the only permanent memorial marking the centenary of WW1 that depicts disabled veterans. The statue has become quite the talking point in Manchester and has allowed many to reflect on the contributions of their own grandparents and great-grandparents. Over the next weeks, the Victory Over Blindness campaign highlighted the shared experiences of veterans who were blinded in WW1 and today’s blind veterans. Supporters like you gave generously to thank our veterans for their sacrifices and ensure that ex-Service men and women are equipped to win their own personal victories over blindness. On Remembrance Day itself a contingent of over 100 came together to march past The Cenotaph and salute HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. They were led by 103-yearold Ron Freer (right), the oldest veteran attending the march past. 8 blindveterans.org.uk

Our Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex, unveiled the Victory Over Blindness statue at Manchester Piccadilly Station.

Seven current blind veterans, headed by Peter van Zeller and Ken Facal, proudly stood alongside the blinded soldiers depicted in the statue.

The commemoration was especially poignant for Ron who had lost his own father in WW1. He also wanted to thank Blind Veterans UK, and supporters like you, for the support he has been given since 1945.

Our Blind Veterans UK contingent were honoured to be part of the centenary commemorations on 11 November.

Victory Over Blindness “ When I returned from the Second World War having lost my sight, I thought my life would be over. Through Blind Veterans UK I have been able to live a long, happy, independent life, and made some fantastic friends.� Ron Freer blindveterans.org.uk 9

MARCH IS FOR VETERANS This March, we’re joining forces with communities around the UK to end isolation for those who have served our country and are experiencing sight loss. There are lots of exciting ways that you can get involved.

Challenge yourself to walk 25 miles a week To take part, follow these four steps: Step 1: Sign up at blindveterans.org.uk/marchisforveterans choose your challenge and set up a fundraising page — it only takes a few minutes! Step 2: Share your challenge offline and online. Step 3: Get sponsored by friends, family and colleagues. Step 4: Get walking! You can track your progress using a watch like fitbit. It’s easy to link the app to your fundraising page so all your friends and family can follow your progress. There are also five organised 10-mile walks across the country, so you could get together with friends for a lovely stroll, while raising much-needed funds at the same time. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/marchisforveterans to find the march nearest to you.

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Big Fry Up

Meet Up Brew Up

Perhaps throwing a Big Fry Up for your friends and family, or a breakfast buffet at work or in your local community is more your style, or maybe you’d like to make sure your loved ones are getting a good start to their day before clocking up their March for Veterans miles?

We all love a cuppa, but can you turn your tea break into a get-together for good?

You could get together for fried eggs in your kitchen at home, granola bars at school or croissants in the office and raise funds by asking for a donation in exchange for breakfast treats. Everyone can contribute so organising an event needn’t be a lot of effort.

Howard Shooter, Lauren Floodgate

If you’d like to host a Big Fry Up, get your date in the diary, register on the website and start spreading the word!

We know you’ll want snacks with your cuppa and are challenging you to get creative. Perhaps you could decorate your digestives, jazz up a jaffa cake or bedeck a bourbon? Taking part is simple – just register on the March is for Veterans website and set a date for your own Meet Up Brew Up and we’ll send you lots of ideas to get you going.

To register for any of the exciting activities that are taking place in March, and for lots of hints and tips on how to make your activity a success, visit blindveterans. org.uk/marchisforveterans and choose your activity #MarchForVeterans, #BigFryUp or #MeetUpBrewUp

blindveterans.org.uk 11

You helped ‘Sparky’ into the record books I

n your last edition of Debrief we told you how Steve ‘Sparky’ Sparkes, along with his friend Mick Dawson were attempting the incredible feat of rowing the Pacific Ocean.

showed me what the Pacific can throw at you. Every day was a fight against the wet and the cold.

The great news is that they made it! After rowing gruelling twohour shifts for 282 consecutive days and nights they reached their destination in Monterey, California on 28 August 2018.

Read more about Sparky’s amazing adventure at blindveterans.org. uk/sparkysrowingadventure

Nevertheless it’s been an amazing experience, I’m glad we’ve done it.” He continued: “When you’re partially sighted your morale can really drop, but doing something like this makes you think, ‘what can’t I do?’”

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© Ellen Hoke

Completing the Great Pacific Race puts Sparky into the record books as the first blind person to row the Pacific Ocean. On his arrival in Hawaii Sparky said: “I knew it was going to be rough but the first two weeks really

Your support helps blind veterans reach their GOAL Our GOAL (Get Out And Live) group is helping give blind veterans a new lease of life.


he group is for veterans aged 50-76 who enjoy a challenge and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people.

Started in 2011 by Chris Humphries, formerly of the Royal Navy, the members meet up to three times a year for all types of adventures and outings. Recent highlights have included riding a zip wire, driving go-karts and visiting historical sites like the Cutty Sark and York Minster. The group’s secretary, John Brice, says being in GOAL was a ‘turning point’ for him.

Here's the GOAL group in front a statue of the Beatles on their recent outing in Liverpool.

“I was 60 when my eye condition was diagnosed. I knew it wasn’t going to get any better, but I also knew I still wanted to take on new challenges. It was great when Blind Veterans UK encouraged me to attend the group. When I met the others I knew straight away they were lunatics – but my type of lunatics. We all support each other to

do things we probably wouldn’t do on our own – like rock climbing up the Great Orme in Wales. We don’t always have sighted people to help us so we rely on our mates and doing things together gives us all extra confidence.”

If you have any suggestions for GOAL group activities, please email bvukgoalgroup@gmail.com blindveterans.org.uk 13

You helped blind veterans find their voice Your support helped Jennie Hammond, our Essex Community Team leader, to bring together a group of blind veterans from across her region into a choir called Vision In Song.


he choir was born when Jennie made a home visit to 77-yearold Army veteran Danny Williams who told her of his desire to sing again.

Jennie says: “I visited Danny at home and was really moved by his story. His great love was singing but when he lost his sight he was unable to be accommodated by his old choir. I made it my mission to make sure Danny could sing as part of a choir group again.” Danny recalls it well: “Jennie asked me what I missed most since my sight loss and without hesitation I told her it was being part of a singing group. Words cannot express how much joy Vision In Song has given me and I’m so 14 blindveterans.org.uk

thankful to Jennie and Blind Veterans UK for making it happen.” The ten vision-impaired ex-Service men who make up the choir represent all three branches of the British Armed forces: Army, Navy and RAF. They perform an assortment of numbers from wartime classics to patriotic anthems and jazz hits. Former Royal Artillery Wireless operator Ted Cruse is another choir member and says: “I was a choir boy as a child and even sang at the Queen’s coronation at Westminster Abbey. Vision In Song has given all of us a chance to sing again when we thought we never would.

There is a real sense of camaraderie in the group and we all really look forward to rehearsals.”

“If you’re down in the mouth, fed up, jarred off – sing, it will bring you back to happiness.” Danny Williams

Left to right, choir members Ken Milward, Ron Coe, Wally Nixon, Lionel Chivers, Colin Humphreys, Ted Cruse, Les Brown and John Russell. Kneeling are Jane Gould Choir Leader and Margaret Hunter her Assistant.

You can help our Community Team bring together more blind veterans. Please give what you can today. blindveterans.org.uk 15

Jacque (left) with Julie Ecclestone, Blind Veterans UK Community Support Worker

“It feels wonderful to help blind veterans”


ommunity Volunteer Jacque Ralph, explains why it’s important to help blind veterans get out and about.

“My husband was in the RAF for 25 years, so after I retired I thought it would be nice to do something for veterans. As a Community Volunteer I do all sorts, from helping at our local lunch club, to driving veterans to hospital appointments, to visiting them in their homes for a chat. For older blind veterans, it’s vital to get out of the house and meet up with others. One gentlemen we helped had a really bad year, losing his driving licence because

of his condition, and then losing his wife to Alzheimer’s. Me taking him shopping helps him to keep active and rebuild his confidence. It gives him a reason to get up in the morning. One of the things I enjoy most is what I call ‘swinging lamp syndrome’. It’s an army term that means telling all your old war stories, and when they get together our blind veterans love to swap tales. One veteran, who’s 103, was in a Japanese POW camp but he still has a real thirst for life. It’s so rewarding to do my bit and meet such a lovely bunch of people. After all they’ve done for us, I feel it’s the least I can do for them.”

You can be part of the team that transforms lives, by giving time as a volunteer. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/volunteer to find out about opportunities near you. 16 blindveterans.org.uk

Ron Murray’s lasting legacy to Blind Veterans UK Ron’s son, Jeff, explains why his Dad decided to leave a legacy gift to Blind Veterans UK in his Will.


ad was a perfect gentleman. I can honestly say I never heard him swear, not once. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.

It was a real blow to him when he started to lose his sight. Being unable to drive hit him badly, because he loved to travel all over the place.

In the Second World War Dad was involved in bringing war equipment from America on the Atlantic convoys. In 1941 his ship, the Javanese Prince, was torpedoed off the Butt of Lewis and sank. Later he took part in the D-Day Landings for which he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur.

That’s when Blind Veterans UK came into his and Mam’s lives. They gave them so much support including a magnifier which meant Dad could read the paper and keep up with his beloved Newcastle United. They visited the Brighton centre twice every year and Dad loved catching up with the other veterans.

After the war Dad worked for British Steel and kept very active, even after he retired.

We lost Dad in 2017 and Mam about a year later. It really helped me to know

During the war, Ron Murray served on the Atlantic convoys and took part in the D-Day Landings.

they’d left a gift to Blind Veterans UK in their Will. I know it meant the world to both of them to know the good it would do, supporting men and women who have served our country. Dad’s legacy to our family will be his good manners and kind nature. I’m enormously proud that his legacy to blind veterans will see them continuing to get the care and support they need in the years to come.”

For more information on leaving a gift, please contact Sarah Dalling, Legacy Manager, by emailing legacies@blindveterans.org.uk or by calling 020 7616 8365. blindveterans.org.uk 17

Go the extra mile for blind veterans Over the next few months there are a number of wonderful opportunities for you to join friends old and new while raising funds for Blind Veterans UK.

D-Day 44 Challenge

Prudential RideLondon

5–7 June, Normandy, France

4 August, London

The D-Day 44 Challenge is a unique 44-mile run or 22-mile walk that commemorates the 1944 Allied invasion of occupied France on the anniversary of D-Day, 6 June. The route hugs the Normandy coastline taking you over sand dunes, through marshland and barley fields, taking in D-Day commemorations on Normandy’s beaches. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/dday44challenge for more info.

Whatever your age, ability or speed on two wheels, the Prudential RideLondon has a challenge tailored for you. Now in its seventh year, the event offers a unique opportunity to cycle closed streets in London, enjoying all the sights and sounds and the camaraderie of your fellow competitors. You can find more details at blindveterans.org. uk/ridelondon

Find out about more fun challenges you can do for Blind Vete To sponsor any of our events, or to learn about ways you can Jo Billings by email joanne.billings@blindveterans.org.uk or cal 18 blindveterans.org.uk

Race the Train Tywyn

Great North Run

17 August, Mid Wales

8 September, Newcastle

Following the course of the picturesque Talyllyn Steam Railway, competitors will have the chance to race the steam train to Tywyn! You can choose to run any of a number of distances to suit your ability and enjoy a wonderful day out in the valleys while raising much-needed funds for Blind Veterans UK. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/racethetrain if you’d like to take part.

Around 57,000 runners will take part in this year’s half marathon, one of the most iconic running events in the calendar. Blind Veterans UK has a number of charity places available for those wishing to run on our behalf but be sure to act fast – places are always at a premium for this world-renowned event. Register your interest at blindveterans.org.uk/greatnorthrun

rans UK at blindveterans.org.uk/what-you-can-do/challenges partner with us, please contact our Commercial Partnerships Manager, ll her on 020 7616 7931. blindveterans.org.uk 19

Your support helped end Ken’s isolation

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helps Ken access the equipment and services he sorely needs.


lind veteran Ken Newbury, 88, enlisted in the RAF in 1949 and served for nine years as a motor mechanic, including a posting to the Suez Canal. After Ken left the forces his eyesight deteriorated due to macular degeneration. When his wife passed away in 2010, Ken lost his confidence and hardly left his home. He described himself as being ‘more or less at the bottom.’

Thankfully, Ken was put in touch with Blind Veterans UK and, because of the generosity of supporters

like you, we were able to provide him with specialist rehabilitation and training, practical advice and emotional support. As Ken says: “Blind Veterans UK saved my life.” After spending a week at our Brighton centre, Ken felt his confidence returning. Spending time with other visionimpaired ex-Service men and women helped him understand that he could still lead a fulfilling life and, with a few simple technological aids, live independently. Our Community Support Worker, Martha,

“The most useful piece of kit I’ve received is the magnifying aid. It’s got a big screen and you put your letters underneath.” This is a CCTV reader which enlarges print and pictures. This machine can also brighten the image and enables our blind veterans to look at old photos, manage their own mail, and read newspapers and books again. As well as these aids, Ken has started to attend monthly events where he is able to socialise with other blind veterans, with the help of his volunteer, Liam. The help Ken is now able to receive is thanks to supporters like you. Thank you for allowing us to find Ken and connect him to the Blind Veterans UK community. You can find out more about his journey and those of many others at blindveterans.org.uk/ isolation

A CCTV magnifier machine costs £2,145. Please give what you can today to help a blind veteran like Ken have access to this life-changing technology. blindveterans.org.uk 21

All of our supporters are stars Over the years a host of famous faces have, just like you, supported our charity. Here we remember some of the stars who have done their bit for blind veterans.

Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an early visitor to St Dunstan’s. No photos remain, but he did sign an autograph for us.

Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn has been a staunch supporter over the decades.

During WW2, George Formby entertained our veterans at our Church Stretton centre. 22 blindveterans.org.uk

The ‘Cheeky Chappie’, comedian Max Miller, attending a dance at our Brighton centre.

Six-times Wimbledon champion Suzanne Lenglen was one of our earliest celebrity supporters.

Peter Brough and his companion Archie Andrews meeting one of our veterans in 1951.

Dame Barbara Windsor joined us for Christmas lunch in 2016.

Photographer David Bailey spent a day at our Brighton centre in 2018 and was happy to offer advice and tips to our blind veterans.

Actress Jane Asher, and former newsreader and MP Martin Bell, were among those to join us for our Christmas carol concert in 2018.

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Could you be the next supporter to win £15,000 in our SUPERDRAW? These winners are already enjoying their good fortune

Mr Lawrence, £15,000 win “I plan to spend the money on installing a handrail for my daughter.”

Mrs Frascogna, £15,000 win “Very surprised but absolutely delighted. I was completely taken aback.”

There are great cash prizes to be won in our next three Superdraws, closing on 29 March, 29 May and 27 September. To enter, visit blindveteransraffle.org.uk or call 0800 804 7066. GOOD LUCK! Terms and conditions apply. For full details please visit blindveteransraffle.org.uk All quotes are from real winners, but photographs feature models to protect our winners’ identities. Registered Charity No. 216227 (England & Wales) and SC039411 (Scotland).

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Debrief Spring 2019  

Debrief Spring 2019