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Blind ex-Navy Service woman from Wiltshire to march to Cenotaph with Blind Veterans UK

Date
9 October 2014 11:05

A registered blind Wiltshire Navy veteran is set to represent national charity Blind Veterans UK on the annual Remembrance Sunday march in London.

Lindy Elliott, 68 and from Mere near Warminster, will be one of over 100 vision impaired ex-Service men and women who will march to the Cenotaph as part of a contingent from Blind Veterans UK.

Inspired by her father's service during the Second World War, the then-Lindy Grant served in the Women's Royal Naval Service, known as the Wrens, between 1965 and 1969. She says "My father always spoke fondly of his service - even though he had spent nearly four years as a German prisoner of war (POW).

"He'd been on landing crafts that had been trying to rescue retreating Australian troops from Crete. The vessels were sunk and he was picked up by the Germans."

Lindy says "He always used to tell me these stories like how the POWs split a single tomato between six people. It was quite traumatic for a child to hear, but my father formed a lifelong bond with his fellow Navy POWs and they were a big influence on me growing up.

"When I left school, I didn't know quite what to do, but I knew I really wanted to travel the world and there were quite limited options for a woman travelling alone in the 1960s. The Navy seemed like the perfect way to do it."

Lindy was initially selected to receive a commission and train as an officer, but chose to serve abroad instead. Lindy was handpicked to be one of the first Wrens to serve in Singapore since the Second World War, where the Navy was responsible for transporting troops back to the UK left in the region following the Malayan Crisis.

Lindy says "The Wrens I was with were a great crowd of girls and we really worked together. The men were very protective of us as well, and I really felt that I was a part of the Navy."

During her service, Lindy was also stationed in London's World War II-era citadels - the underground facilities used by Churchill to conduct the war effort. Lindy says "It was a very eerie place, with lots of dark, narrow corridors and rooms set up in case of another war. My time in the Navy was absolutely wonderful - I knew that if I hadn't joined the Wrens, I'd probably be sitting in an office typing, and this was far better."

Lindy's career was unfortunately cut short after being diagnosed with diabetes. Lindy says "My diabetes caused a lot of problems at the time, so I was medically discharged. It was an awful shock, especially as I was still in line to receive an officer's commission."

Over thirty years after leaving the Navy, Lindy noticed that she was having difficulties with her sight. She says "I was moving house and I bent down to pick up a box and I saw this thunderbolt of blood in front of my eyes. I went to the ophthalmologist and was told I had the beginnings of diabetic retinopathy. Within four months, it was chronic."

Since 2012, Lindy has received free and comprehensive support from Blind Veterans UK to help her live independently with sight loss.

Lindy says "Blind Veterans UK have been absolutely wonderful, and my entire life has changed for the better. I didn't want to accept that I was going blind, but meeting the other blind veterans - from all three Services - has really helped me understand my sight loss and feel like I'm back in the Navy family again.

"Blind Veterans UK has given me white cane training so I can get around more easily and shown me how I can use a computer without being able to see the screen."

This will be the second time Lindy has taken part in the annual Remembrance Sunday march with Blind Veterans UK. Lindy says "It's an enormous honour to take part. As well as representing Blind Veterans UK, I want to mark the role women have had in the Forces. I wouldn't miss the march for the world."

Our No One Alone campaign aims to reach out to more people like Lindy. 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.