Nottinghamshire blind veteran celebrates centenary of military charity

1 April 2015 11:05

A veteran from Nottinghamshire who has received vital support from Blind Veterans UK celebrated the centenary of the charity at a special reunion event in Derby last week (10/04).

Kenneth Godfrey, 90, from Long Eaton 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. It's very special to Kenneth as it's his first social event since his induction week at the charity.

Kenneth was called up in 1943, aged 18, during World War Two and served as a Rifleman in the Hallamshire Battalion of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment. His division was airlifted into Normandy in summer 1944 to relieve the troops who had carried out the D-Day landings on 6th June. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the Normandy landings freed France from Nazi control and helped the Allies to victory in North-West Europe.

Later he took part in Operation Market Garden, a bold Allied military operation that attempted to end the war by Christmas 1944. After the war, he was posted to 2nd British Division Headquarters, requisitioning houses for men who had come back from the war. He was discharged in October 1947 as a Colour Sergeant.

He says: "I was lucky. I survived the entire war in the infantry where there was no one between us and the enemy."

Kenneth lost his sight due to a combination of macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss in those over fifty, cataracts and glaucoma. He gave up driving in 2010 and had to sell his car.

Kenneth says: "It got worse and worse. I was told at the hospital that there was no more they could do for me. I started doing little things to prepare myself for going blind, such as making sure my cereal bowl was in the same place every day."

Kenneth discovered Blind Veterans UK through a leaflet on the hospital receptionist desk. The charity have helped him continue to live independently with talking books, a boom box, and coloured sunglasses to protect his eyes from bright sunlight.

Kenneth says: "They've done brilliantly for me. All the effort they put in is absolutely marvellous. My Welfare Officer Alison came over for a lovely couple of hours to talk about what Blind Veterans UK could do for me. She recommended that I went to Sheffield centre for a course, and it's the most brilliant thing I've done."

He attended a week-long introduction course at the charity's Sheffield Centre to help him adjust to his sight loss and regain his independence. He sat in on a computing course and plans to return to the centre for IT training in the future.

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 Kenneth. 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.