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Cambridgeshire blind veteran returns to Falklands after 36 years

Date
20 November 2018 15:00

One of our blind veterans from Cambridgeshire has returned to the Falkland Islands for the first time in 36 years since the war ended in 1982.

Blind veteran David Atkinson presents Governor of the Falklands, Nigel Phillips CBE, with a Blind Veterans UK tie
Blind veteran David presents Governor of the Falklands, Nigel Phillips CBE, with a Blind Veterans UK tie

David, 64 and from Soham in Ely, joined the Royal Navy in 1972 and in 1982 he was mobilised aboard HMS Endurance during the Falklands conflict. He was later selected for service aboard Royal Yacht Britannia but retired in 1991 due to his sight loss.

David presented Nigel Phillips CBE, Governor of the Falkland Islands, with a Blind Veterans UK tie at Government House and laid a wreath at the 1982 Liberation Memorial.

As a recipient of the South Atlantic Medal, David took advantage of concessionary flights and travelled by Voyager, the largest RAF aircraft, on the ‘air bridge’ between RAF Brize Norton and the Falklands.

Blind veteran David Atkinson (right) aboard HMS Endurance in 1982
David (right) aboard HMS Endurance in 1982

David was accompanied on the trip by guide Phil Drewery, also from Soham. Phil served with David on HMS Endurance during the Falklands conflict.

During the trip they stayed at Liberty Lodge in Port Stanley and visited a number of the battlefields including Port Fitzroy, Goose Green and Two Sisters Mountain.

"I wanted to go back to pay my respects and see how things had changed. It was a very emotional trip and an honour to remember those that fell in battle. It was important for me to see not only the graves of our lads but also the Argentine cemetery as well."
David

He continues: “It was great to meet the Governor at Government House and enjoy tea and sticky buns together. My thanks go to Blind Veterans UK and the Falklands Veterans Foundation for helping to make this trip happen.”

Blind veteran David Atkinson (right) aboard HMS Endurance in 1982
David (right) aboard HMS Endurance in 1982

David first noticed his sight deteriorating aboard HMY Britannia in 1985. He was later diagnosed with macular degeneration and by 1991 it meant he had to leave the Navy behind. Fortunately, he found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from ourselves in 2013.

"The support that Blind Veterans UK has given me from day one has been second to none. At my introductory week in June I had training and received equipment that has enabled me to do everyday tasks that were otherwise impossible before. Since then I’ve been attending the monthly lunch clubs at Girton College in Cambridge where I’ve met lots of vision-impaired veterans with similar experiences to my own."
David

“The local staff are absolutely fantastic, always full of information and eager to get you up and running with new equipment or arranging exciting events relating to your personal hobbies and interests.”

Blind veteran David Atkinson and guide Phil Drury lay Blind Veterans UK wreath at the 1982 Liberation Memorial
David and guide Phil lay a Blind Veterans UK wreath at the 1982 Liberation Memorial

“I was a keen canoer before my sight loss and so having to quit my hobby as well as my job meant that I really missed my seafaring escapades. Blind Veterans UK gave me the first opportunity to get back out on the water since then with a sailing taster day in Suffolk, which was absolutely fantastic.”