August 15 will mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day), commemorating the end of the Second World War. To celebrate, we want to highlight the bravery of our veterans by sharing their stories.

We were there for veterans who lost their sight in the Second World War and still are today, caring for them throughout their lives. At this time they are particularly vulnerable, so it is more important than ever that we support them and help them come together virtually to prevent them becoming isolated.

Today we support 1117 Second World War veterans who served our country. 75 years on they need your support.

Help us reach our target of £1117 to support our amazing veterans
Donate now

Meet our veterans

Constance Halford-Thompson

Constance, 93 and from London, served with the Women’s Auxiliary Service of Burma (WASBs) during the Second World War when she manned a mobile canteen. She was part of a group of women who moved through Burma with the British 14th Army, often living in dangerous and difficult conditions. 

Many of the WASBs were mentioned in dispatches and General Slim, who later became 1st Viscount Slim, Commander of the 14th Army known as the ‘Forgotten Army’ said of them: “They showed the highest standard of devotion and courage.”

Constance joined the WASBs at just 17 years old. Her elder sister was already a WASB and that helped to convince her parents to let her go.

She says: “The WASBs were formed by the wives and daughters who walked out of Burma when the Japanese invaded and they were properly formed when the British Troops moved in to retake Burma.

Constance Halford Thompson holding VJ Day wreath
Constance Halford Thompson on WASB truck

She says: “The WASBs were formed by the wives and daughters who walked out of Burma when the Japanese invaded and they were properly formed when the British Troops moved in to retake Burma.

“We had a Headquarters in Assam where we had to go to learn all about the stocktaking for our mobile canteens. We went into Burma supplying the troops with food, or setting up static canteens with teas and lunches, or anything the troops might need from toothpaste to Brylcreem.

Constance has been receiving help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2001. She suffers from retinitis pigmentosa which, unfortunately, has meant that she could no longer carry on her career as an artist. This has not held her back however and she has written a course teaching people to paint and work the way she did.

“The IT training and equipment has made such a difference to my life. It has allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family and keep my independence.”

“We were a very small force of 80 girls at the start and it was all extremely exciting. I found it very difficult to get permission from my parents to go but we were looked after extremely well. We had a uniform and were classed as Officers, which meant we carried papers stating that if we were taken prisoner we were to be treated as Officers.”

Ron Freer

Unfortunately Ron passed away peacefully at 104 at the end of April at the Blind Veterans UK care home in Ovingdean, East Sussex. This VJ Day we want to pay tribute to him, his life and his long journey with Blind Veterans UK. 

Born in Teignmouth, Devon in 1915, Ron enlisted as a boy soldier to the Exeter Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1931. After training in Woolwich, London until 1935, he was posted to Hong Kong, serving there for six years. In late 1941, the Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong including Fort Stanley, where Ron was based. After 18 days of fighting, his garrison surrendered against overwhelming odds.

He became a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) and remained so until the end of the Second World War. It was this four year ordeal that led to Ron losing his sight and hearing because of the malnutrition he suffered in the camp.

 

He returned to the UK in 1946 and was discharged as a W/S Bombardier after more than 15 years of Service. As a veteran who had lost his sight, Ron was introduced to Blind Veterans UK, then known as St Dunstan's.

His main objective, as man in his early thirties, was to find employment. After he married his wife Joan at the end of 1946 they had the opportunity of opening a new post office and he and Joan continued to operate it for 25 years. Ron and Joan had two children, David and Patricia. Ron lived with Patricia for 17 years before becoming a permanent resident at Blind Veterans UK.

Blind veteran Ron Freer
Throughout his life Ron was an important figure within Blind Veterans UK and, in 2015 he turned 100 in the same year as the charity. He was asked to unveil the plaque marking the charity’s anniversary at the location of its first meeting. For the last three years Ron was also the oldest of all the veterans marching at the Remembrance Sunday parade at the Cenotaph. Still marching at the age of 104.

At this time when many of our normal fundraising routes have been cut off due to Coronavirus, direct support from the British Public has never been more important.

Help us reach our target of £1117 to support our amazing veterans
Donate now