Relatives of WWI Veteran visit Blind Veterans UK

23 May 2013 13:25

Earlier this month we were visited by Lorraine Harrison, James Richards and Louise Ahmet - three siblings, and relatives of World War One veteran James Pardo Meighen.

Earlier this month we were visited by Lorraine Harrison, James Richards and Louise Ahmet - three siblings, and relatives  of World War One veteran James Pardo Meighen. Lorraine had arranged the visit to the Blind Veterans UK headquarters on Harcourt Street in London to learn more about her grandfather's cousin.
James Pardo Meighen was born in Liverpool on 11th November 1893 and he joined Blind Veterans UK, then known as St Dunstan's, on 22nd November 1918, after we became aware of his being in the 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill.

Before enlisting into the Royal Field Artillery on 22nd March 1915, James worked as a driver and stableman. He was wounded in the Ypres sector on 11th September 1918, leading to him
being formally discharged on 22nd November 1918. James suffered a shrapnel wound to both eyes, leaving him with no sight in his left eye and only a little in his right. He also had wounds to his left arm.
When those serving in the First World War were blinded, it was usual for them after their hospital treatment to come to our then headquarters in Regent's Park, London, to take part in rehabilitation activities and training. Instruction in Braille and typing was provided as standard and a range of other occupational training was offered to members. James passed his typewriting and Braille reading tests whilst with us and gained a proficiency certificate in netting.

Our aim was that members would in time be able to rejoin wider society, in an occupation, and live as independent a life as possible. To this end, following their time spent in rehabilitation and training, members would formally be transferred to our 'after care' or welfare department who would keep in touch and provide advice and assistance where necessary. Helping our members recover their independence and discover a life beyond sight loss is still our aim today.

James had many successful sporting achievements during his time with us. He was a member of our team which on two occasions in 1921 played football against a visiting Arsenal side, in the form of penalty kicks, with the Arsenal players except s the goalkeeper playing blindfolded. Today, in our archives, we hold several medals and cups of his,such as a Football Competition silver trophy. This was won by the Meichonian's team with the name of J.P.Meichen inscribed as Captain - over the years records show James's name spelt in a number of ways!

James also completed many London to Brighton walks - which we still hold today - from which he received medals. Lorraine, James and Louise were shown a number of these , including the one from the walk which took place on 6th October 1923. James completed the distance in an impressive 11 hours, 8 minutes and 20 seconds. Many of these items were given to us in 1991 following the death of James' wife Susannah.


On the 19th July 1921 James was transferred to after-care and in October 1921 he moved to West Ham in east London to set up a tobacco and confectionery business. Unfortunately his business was unsuccessful and James returned to  our headquarters in 1924 to re-train in telephony. He worked afterwards in this occupation for Lloyd's Register until his retirement in 1945. He died in 1964.

A relative of Lorraine, James and Louise said that all they remember of James was "someone who came home from War and never saw him again". It was extremely rewarding to have been able to piece together some of the missing information for Lorraine, James and Louise. We even had a photograph of James, pictured on a tandem with Nurse Enid Helen Gordon. She was a VAD or Voluntary Aid Detachment, one of many voluntary nurses we had helping us at this time. The photo is from an album full of photos and cuttings which she compiled; it was kindly given to us recently by her daughter, Mary Gardner.

It is rare that we have so much information in our archives about one member of Blind Veterans UK, but it was white gloves at the ready as we were able to show them James' war medals too. The 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal 1914-18 and the  Allied Victory Medal were given to the family to hold.
We'd like to thank Lorraine, James and Louise for visiting Blind Veterans UK and we wish them all the best with the rest of their family history research!