Brighton World War Two couple set to take part in Cenotaph march

15 October 2013 15:30

A married couple from Brighton, who both receive support from Blind Veterans UK, are set to take part in Cenotaph march on behalf of Blind Veterans UK.

A married couple from Brighton who met as sweethearts on military service during World War Two are due to represent Blind Veterans UK in the Remembrance Day commemorations at the Cenotaph.

Both Jean and Wallace Burnet-Smith, age 92 and 90, are supported by Blind Veterans UK, a national charity which supports ex-Service personnel with sight loss.

The pair met at a Navy cocktail party in 1943, while Jean was serving in the Women's Royal Naval Service and Wallace was flying intercept sorties against German bombers. Jean initially refused to marry Wallace, due to her fear that she would become a war widow; the pair eventually married in October 1945, just one month after the war ended.

Wallace retired from the RAF in 1972, having flown Hurricane, Mosquito and Defiant fighter planes in World War II and the Korean War. Following his service, Wallace began to suffer from age-related macular degeneration and joined Blind Veterans UK in 2000.

Jean, who served as part of Admiral Sir Wellwood-Maxwell's staff during the War, also suffers from the condition and requested support from Blind Veterans UK nine years later. Since then, they have been regular visitors to Blind Veterans UK's centre at Ovingdean in Brighton and are active members of the centre's bowls club.

Both Jean and Wallace will be marching past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday as part of Blind Veterans UK's contingency.

Wallace said:

"I feel I have a duty to remember all those who lost their lives during the war. I'll be remembering my father, who was a career soldier who died during a bombing raid on Brighton, and two of my crew members who were killed in the war.

"I feel that I was a very fortunate man to have survived - I'm here by the grace of God."

There are an estimated 68,000 plus blind or vision impaired ex-Service personnel who could be benefiting from Blind Veterans UK's free support but they either do not know about the charity or they do know that they are eligible for its services. Research suggests that the majority of these did National Service, are currently in their 70s and 80s and suffering from age related sight problems.

If you know an Armed Forces veteran, including for National Service, who has sight loss (including age-related sight loss) request free support, by calling 0800 389 7979.