Blind WWII veteran from Bristol to march in the Remembrance Sunday parade with Blind Veterans UK

4 November 2014 13:40

A blind ex-Army man from Bristol will realise a long-held ambition when he marches at London’s Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, representing Blind Veterans UK.

83-year-old John English, who lives in Yate, says it is a "great privilege and honour" to be taking part in the national event for the first time with Blind Veterans UK, as it is something he has "always wanted to do". 

At the age of 15, John became an army apprentice engineer at the Army Apprentices College in Beachley, Chepstow. Three years later, in 1949, John joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, which saw him posted to Korea, Egypt, Cyprus and Jordan, as well as stations around the UK.

John says "My father was an infantry soldier and paratrooper, so I'd always wanted to join the Army because of him. I enjoyed my time in the Army, especially my time as an apprentice. The camaraderie amongst the men was a great thing, it was brilliant and I still speak to many of those I served with now."

John was demobilised as a Corporal in 1957. Decades later, John began to lose his sight due to the condition age-related macular degeneration.

John says "When I first began to lose my sight, I was very unsure of myself. I was really unhappy and as much as I tried to carry on as normal, things would take me three or four times longer than usual and it would get frustrating.

"Blind Veterans UK has been a great help to me, I almost feel as though I've been given another life. They've really geared me up, I might be 83 but I definitely feel like I've got plenty of years left in me yet."

Due to his service history, John was eligible for free, lifelong support from Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-Service personnel. Since 2012, John has received vital services and support to help him adjust to life with sight loss.

John says "I really enjoy going to the charity's service centres and have had lots of equipment and training, for example with IT, to help me live independently. It has been lovely to meet other chaps in the same boat as me, and I've made many new friends.

"One chap lives close by to me, and we've both been learning photography with Blind Veterans UK. My photos are really coming along."

On Remembrance Sunday, John will march as part of a 100-strong contingent from Blind Veterans UK.

John says "Being an ex-soldier, it is a great honour and privilege to be marching at the Cenotaph with Blind Veterans UK. It has been an ambition for a long time now, and I'm proud to say that I'll be able to march for the Queen. I lost an uncle during the First World War so I'll be thinking of him as well as all of those men and women who didn't come home from conflict."