Buckinghamshire blind veteran to celebrate Queen’s birthday with Patron’s Lunch on the Mall

1 June 2016

A great-grandfather and blind veteran from Buckinghamshire has been invited to attend the Patron's Lunch to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen this June (12/6) together with other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK.

The lunch will be taking place on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace and is being held to recognise the more than 600 organisations that hold The Queen's patronage.

Harry Hitch, 89 and from Aylesbury, and his son Colin have been invited to represent Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, which has had The Queen as its Patron throughout her reign.

Harry served his National Service in the Royal Air Force from 1946 until 1948. He did basic training at RAF Corby and then went on an engine fitter course at RAF Cosford. He was station in RAF Kinloss in Scotland and RAF White Waltham as part of the Reserves Squadron and worked on Air Speed Oxford, Spitfire and de Havilland Rapid aircraft.

He says: "Air crew came to our base to get in their flight hours. There was one Wing Commander who was a Pilot during the Battle of Britain and whenever he took the Spitfire out for a spin he definitely put it through its paces."

After he left the RAF, Harry started working on specialised production engineering for different aircraft manufacturing companies. He worked the de Havilland Comet, Vickers Vanguard and on the Concorde until retirement.

Harry suffers from glaucoma which caused him to gradually lose his sight in one eye from the late 1960s onwards. More recently he suffered from age related macular degeneration and retinal vein occlusion caused by a blood clot, which caused him to rapidly lose most of his sight.

He started receiving help and support from Blind Veterans UK in 2014 after another veteran supported by the charity told him about them and its support at a local lunch.

Harry says: "I don't know what I would do without Blind Veterans UK. I was quite depressed and found it difficult to adjust to my sight loss. They have shown me the way and now I see light at the end of the tunnel.

"Blind Veterans UK teach you that a blind person should be able to do almost everything a sighted person can do and I do now."

Harry has received equipment to help him live independently with sight loss such as a scanner which reads out his mail for him as well as a colour identifier so he knows what the colour of his clothing is.

He says: "I've had IT training and learned how to use a computer, which I now use regularly for emails and the Internet. Blind Veterans UK have taught me that my sight loss shouldn't hold me back - I feel more complete now."

Harry and his son Colin are now looking forward to celebrating The Queen's 90th birthday together with other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK. On Sunday 12 June, The Mall in St James's Park will be transformed for its largest ever street party to celebrate The Queen's patronage of more than 600 charities and organisations.

Harry says: "We're both very excited and very fortunate that we'll be spending this special day on the Mall with the Royal Family and Blind Veterans UK."

The Patron's Lunch is a few days before Harry's own 90th birthday and he is organising a party the weekend after, where he's asked guests not to give him presents but instead donate to Blind Veterans UK.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity's initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help them discover a life beyond sight loss by calling 0800 389 7979 today.