Lancashire World War Two blind veteran says thanks for support at Christmas time
3 December 2013 16:05
Ernest (Ernie) Lee, a blind World War Two veteran from Fleetwood, Lancashire, has thanked charity Blind Veterans UK for its excellent support with his battle against sight loss.
Ernie lost his eye sight from Advanced Macular Degeneration years after his time in service, and as a blind veteran was able to become a member of Blind Veterans UK. Ernie, 89, describes being a part of the charity as being like part of a family, whose support he is particularly grateful for at Christmas time.
Born in September 1924, Ernie left school at 13. He joined his father as a fisherman and later became a fitter with FYLDE Engineers before enlisting into the Royal Navy aged 18.
During his time with the Navy Ernie served with the Second Escort group in the Western Approaches which meant that he was responsible for trying to track down German Submarines.
Speaking about his time in service, he said: "The experience did me the world of good - it gave me an awful lot of discipline which has stayed with me my whole life. I am 89 and I still wake up every day at 5.00am even though I have been retired for 30 years! I always do my weekly washing which means I have to wake up at 3.30am on a Saturday morning to get into the communal washing room in my block of flats before everyone else does!"
Ernie became a member of Blind Veterans UK in October 2004 and says that the impact that it has had on his life has been amazing.
"Whenever I go to the charity's Brighton centre I feel like I am coming home to my family. The atmosphere is of a very close knit community. We can't see each other but we are able recognise each other through our voices immediately. It always impresses me how we are able to do that.
"The charity has given me my independence back. It taught me how to do things for myself again and get out there on my won. I've learnt how to touch type and it also provided me with a computer which enabled me to do what I have really wanted to do - put my thoughts onto paper and eventually publish a book about my experience with the Navy. Before this I had to rely on my daughter coming into my house and reading all of my mail which was very frustrating.
"I have had a great time at the charity's Ovingdean centre over Christmas which was just lovely. There was a party every night so I was shattered, completely clapped out by the end but it was great fun. When I think of Christmas I think of now being to do my own Christmas shopping and reading my Christmas cards - and this is because of Blind Veterans UK".
We recently launched our No One Alone campaign which aims to reach out to the estimated 68,000 plus ex-Service personnel who could be benefiting from the charity's services but they either do not know about us or they do not know that they are eligible for its services. Research suggests that the majority of these, like Ernie, did National Service.
If you are or know of a veteran with vision impairment, go to: www.noonealone.org.uk or telephone: 0800 389 7979.