It was on this day, 100 years ago, that the Battle of the Somme concluded.
18 November 2016
Hundreds of thousands of men had been wounded in the battle, including Ian Fraser. Fraser had been blinded by a bullet. It had entered the edge of his right eyebrow, traversed the front of his face behind his nose, and then exited through his left cheek bone.
Both eyes were destroyed.
He was transferred to the 2nd London General Hospital in Chelsea, where our Founder Sir Arthur Pearson had arranged that the returning war-blinded men should go to.
Although Pearson was away at the time he wrote a letter to Fraser, and arranged for his personal assistant to gift Fraser with a braille watch.
In Fraser’s words, describing the watch: “There was a dot against each numeral, with double dots at the quarters. The hands were slightly raised and a little flatter and stronger than ordinary watch-hands.
“I held the watch in my hand and felt the face with my thumb. For the first time since I was wounded I was able to tell the time.
“The value of the watch to me far exceeded its usefulness. That in itself was considerable, for you to tend to want to know the time often when you are in permanent darkness, and have no means of distinguishing even night from day. Of course, in hospital, one could always ask. But that was the whole point. With this watch I did not have to ask anyone. I would never have to ask again. I was able to do it myself.”
After leaving the hospital Fraser moved to our St Dunstan’s Lodge. There he learnt Braille and to type becoming our Founder Sir Arthur Pearson’s personal assistant. He married Irene in 1918 and had a daughter; Joan in 1920.
At the age of 24 Fraser succeeded Sir Arthur Pearson as Chairman of St Dunstan’s. He held this position for an incredible 53 years, championing the cause of blinded ex-Service men and women. He went on to receive the CME (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1922, and was also a member of the London County Council, was elected as Conservative MP for the seat of North St Pancras and later became a Governor of the BBC.
In 1934, Fraser was knighted and in 1958 became Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. In 1961 his book ‘My Story of St Dunstan’s’ was published.
It is believed in 1974, just before his death, Fraser began writing another autobiography. Unfortunately, he was only able to write the first 28 pages before passing away. The typescript has remained undiscovered for the last 40 years, and has never been seen before.
Be one of the first to take a look here.