Hampshire veteran thanks charity for acting as ‘lifeline’ when eye sight started to fail

4 December 2013 16:15

A blind veteran from Fareham, Hampshire, has thanked national charity Blind Veterans UK, for being a ‘lifeline’ when his eye sight started to fail and he felt that his world was collapsing.

This comes as Blind Veterans UK continues to raise awareness about its No One Alone campaign which aims to reach out to the estimated 68,000 plus blind veterans who could be eligible for the charity's support but do not know that it exists.

Bob Strickland, 76, served with the Royal Artillery during the 1950s. Serving in Cyprus, Suez, Aden and at home, he eventually become a Lance Bombardier. After leaving the military Bob went on to work as a cartographer. It was when he was working as a Chief Cartographer that his sight started to fail due to bilateral optic atropathy and he was forced to stop working.

Talking about his time in service, Bob says: "Serving with Royal Artillery made a man out of me. When I think back to it I remember the excellent camaraderie and comradeship, particularly when I was serving with the Parachute Regiment. I still know some of the people I served with. We meet up every year, reminisce and it takes me straight back to what it was like serving with them all those years ago."

Bob's eye sight started to fail years after his time in service. As a blind veteran he was able to become a member of Blind Veterans UK. Bob, pictured at a Remembrance Day march, says: "Losing my eye sight was just terrible but Blind Veterans UK was a lifeline. I was lucky because it wasn't that long after my sight started to fail that I was introduced to the charity. I would say that it was my wife and the charity that pulled me through.

"The most important thing that I have learnt since joining the charity is there is nothing you can't do because you are blind. I can do all the things I did when I had my sight, it just takes more time now. Becoming blind is not the end of the world. I am still able to go out on my own and lead the life I want.

"I have taken part in many activities since joining the charity such as having one to one blind archery training and learning how to use a computer", he says.

Founded by successful publicist, Sir Arthur Pearson, in 1915 for the soldiers wounded on the battlefields of the First World War, the charity has a rich history and extensive experience of supporting and transforming the lives of blind veterans. Back in the early years of its foundation it became a tradition that Sir Arthur or another member of staff visited each new blind veteran member with the gift of a braille watch to symbolise their first step towards independence. This tradition remains to this day with members being given a talking watch at the very beginning of their journey with the charity.

Taking about being given his talking watch, Bob says: "It felt like the first very important step to regaining my independence. It gave me back time and made me feel that I could cope with what might follow".

Blind Veterans UK provides exceptional support, rehabilitation, training and recreation to blind veterans in its three rehabilitation centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, North Wales.

In October 2012 the charity launched its No One Alone campaign which aims to reach out to the estimated 68,000 plus ex-Service personnel who could be eligible for its services but they do not know about the charity. Research suggests that the majority of these did National Service.

If you are or know of a veteran with vision impairment, request free support or telephone:0800 389 7979.