Blind Second World War veteran celebrates Platinum wedding anniversary
19 November 2015
A Second World War veteran from the Normandy Landings celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary yesterday (17/11).
Ernest Wheeler, 89, from Stafford, met his wife Eileen in Middlesex in 1943 while he was on a Royal Navy training course. One evening he went on a walk to the town of Hounslow with another sailor to buy chips. He saw Eileen walking with her sister and the two sailors walked them almost home, and agreed to meet them again.
According to Ernest's daughter Pauline, "My grandfather was very strict about mum being home on time. On one occasion, dad brought her home late after they were accidentally locked in a park and he gave them both a real dressing down."
Ernest enlisted in the Navy in April 1943 and trained as a Stoker First Class. In June 1944, shortly after the D-Day Landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history, he landed on Juno beach in Normandy. His job was to repair jeeps, lorries and tanks to maintain the supply chain and keep personnel moving. Later he fought in Caen, France, and cleared sunken boats and submarines away from the harbour in Ostend, Belgium.
Twenty-five years ago, Ernest had successful surgery for glaucoma. His sight loss began around four years ago, leaving him with minimal vision. Pauline says, "He cannot see the television very well, read or do crosswords."
A new member of Blind Veterans UK, Ernest is due to go to the Llandudno Centre in December for an introductory week. He hopes to try out old hobbies that have been adapted for blind people, such as blind bowling, and to get help and advice for managing at home.
According to Pauline, the secret to Eileen and Ernests' long marriage is to "give and take, and never fall out over money." Although Ernest still lives at home, they will be celebrating their anniversary at the Butterhill House Residential Care Home in Coppenhall, Stafford, with songs from the 30s and 40s, and a buffet. On Sunday, the couple will be having a family meal with relatives from across the UK.