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About John

Like many of his young friends, John enlisted in the TA at 18 and admits he was “naively not giving much thought to the imminence of another war.” Just nine months later the Second World War broke out and, as he had experience of repairing clocks in his father’s jewellery shop, he was transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corp.

John served throughout the war, attaining the rank of Sergeant. He wrote his war-time memoirs during the pandemic at the age of 101. His exquisite stories detail his time in the revered 7th Armoured Division, Desert Rats, in the Middle East, Cairo, Italy and the Normandy landings. As he has macular degeneration and a pseudophakia (false lens) in both eyes, we provided him with equipment to support him in his project, including a magnifier and lighting, while one of our volunteers spent over 120 hours typing his handwritten notes. John says the project was therapeutic and gave him something to focus on during the lockdown.

John received several campaign medals for his service, including the 1939-1945 Star. In 2019, at the age of 98, he visited Dunkirk and Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Blind veteran John, sitting at a desk with a large notepad, pen in hand, writing his memoirs
Blind veteran John writing his memoirs
A black and white portrait of a young John during his days of service wearing his military uniform
Blind veteran John in 1939
Blind veteran John at an event wearing his beret and military medals
Blind veteran John in 2019
"I thought to myself so many veterans have passed away leaving their families desperate to know what they did in the war and now I had the opportunity to write my story. I hope my story will make others appreciate the horrors and grief war leaves behind."
John McOwan
Blind veteran

John's book has been published and a special launch was held at his local bookshop Whitie's in Peebles.

Find out how to buy a copy