Blind Cambridgeshire WWII veteran to march on Remembrance Sunday with Blind Veterans UK
16 October 2014 12:55
A registered blind ex-soldier from Cambridgeshire will be remembering friends and family when he takes part in the Remembrance Sunday march with Blind Veterans UK.
95 year old John Blackmore from Shudy Camps will be marching to the Cenotaph in London with more than 100 other representatives of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-Service men and women.
John Blackmore first worked on a farm before joining the Royal Artillery in February 1939. He says "My brother and I joined the Territorial Army to see what army life was really like. While my brother only lasted two weeks, I had my mind made up for me in September 1939 when mobilisation was taking place. The 58th Regiment was equipped with 6-inch Howitzer type guns and as I was originally a tractor driver my ambition was to drive a gun tractor so I could show them how it should be done."
In March 1942 John was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps and served in Eritrea, Sudan and Benghazi.
John says "In June 1942 I boarded the Q.E.2 and headed towards Egypt. We stayed in a tented camp overlooking the Great Bitter Lakes, then excitement as we were on the move again - two days on the Egyptian railway, two days on a paddle steamer on the Nile and two days on the Sudanese railway to Khartoum. We soon learnt about some of the horrors that the Sudanese had to put up with.
"In Eritrea the hospital advised us to keep out of the strong sun. We did try, but this came back to haunt me in my eighties when skin cancer cut out the bridge of my nose. The doctor thinks this was caused by the time spent out in the desert."
John was discharged from the Army in July 1946 and he returned to the farm in Shudy Camps which belonged to his father-in-law, and he worked there with his wife and family all his life. However, as an arable farm it was too small to remain economically efficient and the land was largely sold off.
John was officially registered blind in 2012 after losing his sight very quickly to macular degeneration. His loss of vision had a devastating impact on his day-to-day life "Before losing my sight I enjoyed reading and watching rugby. I also had to give up driving, and this of all things I missed the most as living out in the sticks means it's harder to get shopping and visit friends."
John's wife Mabel died on Christmas Day 2013 after 63 years of marriage. He says "I still live in the same house but it's a bit chaotic and because my sight isn't very good there are often disasters, like opening the wrong cans of food, spilling tea and biscuit crumbs. My family insist I would still see a five pound note on the floor though!"
Since November 2013, John has received free and comprehensive support from Blind Veterans UK to help him live independently with sight loss. He says "I found on my first assessment visit to the centre in Brighton that the people at Blind Veterans UK are friendly and patient especially as I can't hear too well either. I was given gadgets to help me and I was very pleased that they would transport me from my home to the centre.
"I have since been on short holidays with Blind Veterans UK including an adventure week in Wales where I went out on a jet boat, and on another day I went up Mount Snowdon in a Land Rover, coming down at 70 miles per hour on a zip wire - apparently the longest in northern Europe!
"The staff and volunteers at Blind Veterans UK have helped me to regain my confidence and it makes life better knowing I can have a break now and again and have all the support I need when I am away."
On Sunday 9 November, John will be one of over 100 vision impaired veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK who will take part in the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations at the Cenotaph in London.
John says "Being able to go to the Remembrance Day parade with Blind Veterans UK makes me feel proud and sad, as I don't suppose I will get many more opportunities to go. If it wasn't for the help and support of Blind Veterans UK I'm not sure I'd have the opportunity to go at all. It will be an amazing event for me and I am looking forward to it immensely."
Our No One Alone campaign aims to reach out to more veterans like John. 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.