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Truro veteran off to the palace to celebrate centenary of military charity

Date
1 May 2015 12:53

A blind veteran from Truro will celebrate Blind Veterans UK’s 100 year anniversary at a special garden party at Buckingham Palace this June (04/06).

William Burke, 85 and from Stithians, will be visiting the palace with more than 1,000 other veterans helped by Blind Veterans UK, to mark the military charity's 100 years of proud service and support to blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

William served in the Royal Navy between 1945 and 1969 working in radio communications. Retiring as a Chief Petty Officer, he served on submarines, destroyers, and an aircraft carrier.

He lost his sight later in life due to age related macular degeneration (ARMD). He started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2009.

William says: "To lose your sight so suddenly as I did is extremely hard. It was such a shock and I became very depressed.

"Realising I wouldn't be able to drive anymore was the most difficult. In a small village like ours that really affects your independence."

Since he began to receive help and support from Blind Veterans UK, William has received training and specialist equipment to help him continue to live as independently as possible with sight loss.

He says: "I know that Blind Veterans UK is there for me whenever I need them. The best piece of equipment the charity has given me is a speaking reader.

"My wife and I particularly enjoy the social aspect too. We've just joined a local lunch club set up by our Welfare Officer. It makes a huge difference to be able to still get out and see people."

William and his wife Lilian will be joining other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK at a special garden party at Buckingham Palace in June.

Lilian says: "It's been a very long time since we've been to London so we're a little nervous but really looking forward to it!

"A royal garden party is a fine way to top off Bill's Navy career as well as celebrate the centenary of such a brilliant charity."

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.

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, says: "All of us at Blind Veterans UK feel both honoured and very proud to celebrate our Centenary at such a special event. It will be a fantastic day for our veterans, whatever the weather!

"This anniversary also provides the opportunity for us to look forward to the challenges that lie ahead for Blind Veterans UK.  It is a critical time for our charity as the number of blind veterans we support is increasing; in the past year, more blind veterans have registered for our help than ever before in the charity's history and this trend is set to continue."

Visit blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity's 100 year history and how you can support its vital work today.