Hartlepool blind veteran celebrates centenary of military charity

3 March 2015 17:45

A local veteran who has received vital support from Blind Veterans UK celebrated the centenary of the charity at a special reunion event this week (26/03).

Norman Wintrip, 83, from Hartlepool reunited with several other veterans helped by Blind Veterans UK to mark the military charity's 100 years of proud service to blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

Norman served in the Royal Navy for twelve years, from 1948 to 1956. He specialised in aircraft handling and served aboard HMS Perseus, the first aircraft carrier to test an important new technology - the steam-powered catapult, which used steam from the ship's boilers to launch heavy jet-powered aircraft off the deck.

On New Years' Day 1951, Norman was onboard when this experimental technology came under threat. Around 24 hours from harbour, they hit a storm with 60ft waves, which poured over the flight deck and hammered the anchor and bow through the steel plating into the ship.

Norman has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2012.  He lost his sight due to age-related macular degeneration, as well as glaucoma and cataracts in his right eye.

Norman says, "I found myself getting a bit depressed - everyone does. Thankfully, I managed to get out of that."

Blind Veterans UK have helped Norman with a wide range of aids and equipment, such as a CCTV, an electronic reading device that magnifies and enlarges images and text onto a TV-like screen. He has received training to help him continue to live independently, such as cooking and using knives with sight loss.

He says, "They've always suggested different courses I might take, and I'd be lost without the CCTV now."

He has been three times to Blind Veterans UK's Sheffield Centre for residential courses and training.

"They come to the door and pick you up and take you back. It makes a big difference and takes the anxiety out of travelling."

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

For 100 years, 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.

Blind Veterans UK is currently reaching out to more veterans like Norman.  If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces, or those who did National Service, and is now battling severe sight problems, Blind Veterans UK may be able to provide them and their family with a lifetime's practical and emotional support for free.

Call freephone - 0800 389 7979 or go to now.