Both blind veterans. Both Royal Engineers. Both supported for life.

3 November 2016

Walter Burgin was born in Sheffield and worked as a decorator before enlisting into the Royal Engineers in 1914. Walter served as a Sapper  but was wounded in the Battle of the Somme. Walter’s injuries were substantial. He lost both his sight and some of his hearing.

Mat making
Blind veterans mat-making

Fortunately, Walter found Blind Veterans UK then St Dunstan’s, where he was taught how to read and write using Braille. Walter also took typewriting and mat-making courses and after completing all courses went on to work successfully as a mat maker.

Walter later married his wife Grace in 1929 and had a son. They relocated to Sussex and remained there until Walter passed away.

100 years later Blind Veterans UK continue to provide veterans with a variety of courses.

Today the most popular courses are no longer typewriting and mat-making but IT and white cane training. One veteran who has completed both is John Thompson.

Like Walter, John also served with the Royal Engineers joining at 18 years old.

He was first stationed in Germany but also served in the Far East including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. He left in 1969 as a Sapper.

It was years later that John became a blind veteran. Unfortunately in 2003 he was diagnosed with a blood clot which damaged the sight in his right eye and later suffered a stroke which then took his left.

John says: “I didn’t know what was happening at first, it was quite frightening but since losing my sight Blind Veterans UK have looked after me.”

John Thompson
Blind veteran John Thompson

We have been able to supply John with equipment and training to enable him to live independently. Last year John was invited to holiday with his family in Vietnam but felt unsure whether he would be up to it. Luckily we were able to provide John with white cane training which allowed John to move independently and provided him with the confidence to travel.

“I was so happy I could visit Vietnam. It was as if everything became a full circle for me – during my Service I was based in Thailand whilst a few miles away the US were bombing Vietnam. It was great to go and see how the country is thriving after all those years.”