92-year-old WWII war hero to take on world’s longest zip wire for Blind Veterans UK
1 July 2014 16:42
A daredevil WWII Commando from West Sussex is set to celebrate his 92nd birthday by riding the world’s longest zip wire – despite being registered blind.
Former Royal Marine and Crawley resident Alan Saunders will be tackling Zip World Velocity, a mile-long, 500ft high wire, to raise money for Blind Veterans UK.
Alan can expect to face speeds of 100mph as he hurtles across the wire in Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda, North Wales, on Wednesday 17th September.
No stranger to heroics, Alan is one of the few remaining survivors of the 1942 Dieppe Raid, a daring assault on a vital German-held port in Normandy. Despite the Allies failing to take Dieppe, it is still remembered as one of the most ambitious military operations of the Second World War.
Alan remains sanguine about the Raid, which resulted in catastrophic losses for British and Canadian forces. He says: "I have no bitterness at all about what happened. These sorts of things are all part of life's grand scenarios. You just got on and prepared for the next job. At the end of the day I survived but of course thousands did not."
Alan's unit took heavy fire during the Raid and was forced to withdraw, with Alan attempting to swim from France to Portsmouth in the confusion. After hours of swimming, Alan was eventually picked up by a patrolling Allied vessel.
Alan says: "I must have been mad to join the Marines during the War - and doing the Velocity zip wire shows I am still mad!"
Alan now suffers from age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, all of which have slowly resulted in him being registered blind. Since 2010, Alan has been supported by Blind Veterans UK, which has provided him with free and comprehensive support to live independently with sight loss.
Alan says: "I first heard of Blind Veterans UK in the late 1920s, when it used to be called St Dunstan's. We had a tea tray at home which had been made by my uncle Jim, who had been blinded in France during the First World War and gone to St Dunstan's for training.
"I never thought that I'd be supported by Blind Veterans UK myself, nearly ninety years later! My sight loss wasn't because of my time in the Marines, but Blind Veterans UK now supports veterans like me, regardless of when or how they lost their sight.
"Blind Veterans UK has given me a new lease of life and I wanted to give back to the charity. I'm dedicating my Velocity zip wire challenge to all the veterans who've been supported by the charity - from my uncle Jim right up to today's vision impaired ex-Service men and women."
To support Alan on his zip wire challenge, please visit www.justgiving.com/alanszipwirechallenge or text SAUN92 £3 to 70070. For more information about Blind Veterans UK's work, please visit the about us page on our website.