Surrey blind veteran aged 78 to tackle 100k ultra-challenge walk to thank military charity for support

21 April 2016 09:56

A retired blind veteran from Cranleigh is set to tackle a 100k ultra-challenge for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

The walk from London to Brighton will be the first endurance event that Frank Bloss, aged 78, has attempted. He will be by far the oldest person undertaking the event.

He says, "Some of my family think I'm mad, but I thought 'why not?'. My wife and I both walk a lot and I used to hike in the Pyrenees before I lost my sight."

Frank completed his National Service in the Royal Navy from 1956 to 1958. He served as an Engineer's Secretary on an anti-submarine frigate, and was responsible for the maintenance records and taking down orders from the bridge. He temporarily lost his sight in his mid-twenties after suffering mercury vapour poisoning while working as a research technician in Vancouver.

He says, "When my sight came back, there was damage to the centre of my vision, I was totally colour blind and saw in monochrome. I was able to go back to work, but they warned me that my sight would deteriorate again in later life, which it did around 16 years ago."

Frank was registered blind in 2009, but only sought support from Blind Veterans UK last year after speaking to a blind veteran friend. He says, "I'd known of Blind Veterans UK for most of my life, but it never occurred to me that the charity could help me because I lost my sight as a civilian."

Frank has been on an induction week at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton centre for rehabilitation and training. This autumn he will be going for a week's holiday to the Llandudno centre. The charity has also given him an Optelec magnifier that reads printed documents aloud. He says, "I was on the point of buying one myself, but I never dreamed Blind Veterans UK would offer me one immediately."

Frank hopes to complete the 100k walk in 24 hours and is training with his son-in-law. He says, "We go for long walks on the flat and in the hills around Cranleigh. We haven't done an overnight walk yet, but I'm going to do that."

Registration for the 100k, which will kick off in Fulham on Saturday 2nd July, is currently open with a registration fee of £75 for the 100km. For those not wanting to walk the full distance there is also a relay option available for teams of four walking 25km each. Teams taking part in the relay have a registration fee of £120. The all-inclusive entrance fee for participants includes lunch, dinner and breakfast at three rest stops, snacks and refreshments along the route and a free event t-shirt.

The London to Brighton 100k challenge is Blind Veterans UK's biggest annual fundraiser and takes participants from a starting point in south west London, along the banks of the Thames, through countryside paths in Surrey, Sussex and the North and South Downs to the charity's centre in Ovingdean, Brighton.