World War One painting by Derek O'Rourke

6 January 2014 10:50

Blind veteran Derek O'Rourke, who receives support from Blind Veterans UK, completes a painting to commemorate the Centenary of World War One.

Under his artistic name DMO'R, blind veteran Derek O'Rourke, has turned his life into an artist's studio since developing a love of painting. Derek produces a variety of work and the majority but not all of Derek's work is related to the armed forces in some way, not surprising as he served in the Royal Navy from 1968.

He trained at HMS St Vincent and qualified as a sonar operator at HMS Vernon. He served in the frigates HMS Sirius, HMS Nubian, HMS Ambuscade and HMS Hermione, operating in the West Indies, Mediterranean and home waters. He left the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer on 26 Aug 1978 and went on to serve in the fire service.

Now at the age of 62, Derek suffers with a rare eye condition Angeoid Streaks which is a form of blood leaking into his eyes. He is registered blind now and says that his eyes are deteriorating all of the time. Derek says: "It could be worse and there are people worse off than me".

Derek paints through a magnifying glass with a small brush. He says he has a reasonably clear spot in the top right hand corner of his right eye which he uses to identify the brush marks on his painting.

To commemorate the Centenary of World War One, Derek has created a special painting which will be a template for a final mosaic piece. The mosaic will be over 4 x 1 meters in size and will take thousands of mosaic pieces to make. To accompany his current World War Series 'Shot at Dawn', Derek has composed a poem.

Shot at Dawn

You lie there freezing, sore and sad

The bombs flying in stench filled air

Your mate there prone and surly dying

The blood the guts, and eyes that stare

The Officer in charge a hooray Henry

He paid his money his commission safe

No thought or caring for his men but he

Whilst the soldiers suffer in pain lose faith

But again the call comes from the top

It's up and over and told no turning back

You climb and shudder in pride and glory

The bullets hard hitting the sand filled sack

Is God here with us this sad cruel day?

Are the Angels watching as here we lie?

The politicians and high ranks sit back

Still sending us down to do but to die

The final straw you just can't make it

The pain the grief and terrifying sorrow

Tied up trussed tightly and under arrest

To be Shot At Dawn first light tomorrow

Derek started painting over 18 months ago when he visited the Blind Veterans UK centre in Ovingdean, Brighton. Derek attended an art course with a qualified art instructor named Dave.

Derek says: "From that day on I just wanted to keep on painting. I find it very relaxing and it takes my mind off all my other aches and pains mentally and physically. If it wasn't for Blind veterans UK I would still be sitting here twiddling my thumbs".

If you know an Armed Forces or National Service veteran suffering with sight loss, including age-related sight loss, visit our No One Alone campaign website, or call 0800 389 7979 for free.