WW2 blind veteran unveils plaque celebrating centenary of military charity

1 May 2015 14:00

Today, Blind Veterans UK celebrated the 100th anniversary of the charity’s foundation in 1915 – and a WW2 veteran supported by the charity played a special role

The centenary was honoured with the unveiling of a plaque in London, exactly 100 years after the first meeting of Blind Veterans UK (then the Blinded Soldiers' and Sailors' Care Committee) on 29 January 1915.

The plaque was unveiled by Ron Freer, aged 99 from Margate. Ron is a blind veteran who has received support from the charity for almost 70 years since losing his sight as a result of malnutrition in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Ron is also celebrating his centenary this year.

The location of the charity's first centre is now a hotel, the DoubleTree Hilton Hyde Park on Bayswater Road.  The hotel has generously agreed to help the military charity mark its centenary by displaying the plaque and hosting the unveiling ceremony.

Ron was assisted by the Rt Hon David Blunkett, the UK's first blind Cabinet Minister and a supporter of the charity.

Ron Freer said: "It is a great honour to have been asked to unveil this plaque.  I have got so much out of my 70 years with Blind Veterans UK.

"When I returned from the Second World War having lost my sight I thought my life would be over. Through Blind Veterans UK I have been able to live a long, happy, independent life, and made some fantastic friends."  

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin, said: "This ceremony was to mark the birth of Blind Veterans UK exactly 100 year ago.  It is so important to remember how far our charity has come in that time.  From our early days helping soldiers blinded in World War I as St Dunstan's and our involvement in pioneering work such as the UK's first white cane training and talking books, to our recent achievements as Blind Veterans UK. We have helped 35,000 veterans, and their families, regain their independence and discover a life beyond sight loss.

"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."

Today, Blind Veterans UK provides free services and help to veterans no matter what the cause of their sight loss, be it due to accidents, illnesses or medical conditions such as Macular Degeneration. The charity currently provides rehabilitation, training, care and recreational activities via its three centres (in Brighton, Llandudno and Sheffield) and a network of welfare staff spanning the UK.

The charity estimates that there are more than 68,000 ex-Service personnel who, could be benefiting from the charity's services but, either do not know about the charity, or do not know that they are eligible for its services.

If you are or know of a veteran with vision impairment, go to: www.noonealone.org.uk or telephone:  0800 389 7979.