91-year-old Hampshire World War II veteran to take part in Remembrance Sunday march with Blind Veterans UK
9 October 2014 10:55
A vision impaired great-great-grandmother from Hampshire who served in the Second World War is set to join a march for Remembrance Sunday commemorations at the Cenotaph representing Blind Veterans UK.
91-year-old Romsey resident Audrey Brooks, who served in the Royal Navy, said that the march will "mean an awful lot" to her when she represents national charity Blind Veterans UK, which supports vision impaired ex-Service men and women.
This will be the second time Audrey has taken part in the march for Blind Veterans UK, having marched last year. Audrey says: "I've done pretty well to take part in the march at my age!
"Most of my family have served at one time or another and so we understand just how important Remembrance Sunday is - my brother was in the Navy at the same time as me, my granddaughter was in the Army for three years and my great-granddaughter is married to a man in the RAF who's served in Afghanistan."
Audrey served in the Women's Royal Naval Service - also known as the Wrens' - from 1943 until the end of the War.
Audrey grew up in Golders Green, London, and had wanted to sign up aged 17, but was asked not to by her older brother, who was then serving in the Navy. Audrey says: "It was just my mother, my brother and me, and we didn't want to leave my mother alone in London. Then I got the call up aged 19 and joined. Like most people at that time, I wanted to serve my country but I also wanted to have something of an adventure. My brother didn't think I'd pass the exams or cope with the discipline, but I got through and loved every minute of it.
"I was hoping to get an exotic assignment - Cairo, Alexandria or somewhere like that - but I was stationed in London, helping to ship other Wrens to and from the UK."
While Audrey's deployment may not have been the adventure she was hoping for, it was not without danger - her work meant that she often had to cross London during the Blitz.
Audrey says: "We were meant to throw ourselves to the ground if we heard one of the doodlebug flying bombs above us. There was one time where I hit my head against someone else's and when we got up, I saw it was a superior officer. He just said, 'Good morning, my dear', I said, 'Good morning, sir', and we walked off. It was a strange thing to happen suddenly in St James' Park."
For the last 14 years, Audrey has suffered from age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma and is now registered blind. Since 2003, she has received free and comprehensive support from Blind Veterans UK to help her live independently with sight loss.
Audrey says: "Blind Veterans UK have given me fantastic support and helped me to do things I never thought possible. At the age of 80, they were training me to use a computer without my sight so I can email my granddaughter in Australia. I really doubted that I'd be able to use a computer at my age, but the instructors convinced me that a blind person can do anything they set their mind to."
Audrey, who now has seven children, 10 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, will be taking part in the Remembrance Sunday march on Sunday 9 November as part of Blind Veterans UK's contingent.
She says: "I've done the march a number of times and it means an awful lot to me. Many of my brother's shipmates were killed in action and I lost two very good friends during the War, so I'll be thinking of them - as well as my family members who are still in the Services.
"The atmosphere on Remembrance Sunday is always absolutely amazing. The applause Blind Veterans UK's contingent received from the crowd last year was wonderful, but it's the quiet moments I remember most of all. During the two minutes' silence, all you can hear - right in the middle of London - is the rustling of the trees and birdsong. It's such a fitting tribute to those who have served and sacrificed for our country."
Our No One Alone campaign aims to reach out to more people like Audrey. More than 68,000 other veterans could be eligible for free help and support without realising it. If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or National Service who now suffers with sight loss from any reason visit www.noonealone.org.uk or call 0800 389 7979.