A royal day out for Jim

18 October 2018 16:30

It was a special day for Second World War veteran Jim Wright when he met HRH The Countess of Wessex at the unveiling of our Victory Over Blindness statue in Manchester.

A blind veteran from Oxfordshire talked to Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO at the unveiling of our Victory Over Blindness statue on Tuesday (16/10) to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Jim Wright, 96, met Her Royal Highness in Manchester at the ceremony to dedicate the artwork, which depicts seven blinded First World War veterans returning from the Front.

HRH Highness The Countess of Wessex with veteran Jim Wright at the Victory Over Blindness statue unveiling
HRH The Countess of Wessex with blind veteran Jim Wright

The statue was produced by us to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, and has been permanently placed outside Manchester Piccadilly station as a memorial to the injured of that conflict.

Jim says: “It was a great honour to attend this ceremony today. We have supported veterans since the First World War through to the present day and I hope all who see the statue will be reminded of our important work.”

Veteran Jim Wright standing next to the Victory Over Blindness statue
Jim Wright stands next to the 'Victory Over Blindness' statue.

Jim was born in 1922 and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) training as an RAF navigator. He completed 42 missions in the famous Avro Lancaster bomber, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion d’Honneur for his role in liberating France.

Jim lost his sight later in life due to age-related macular degeneration and has been supported by us since 2014. We arranged for a volunteer to visit Jim once a week in his home.

Jim says: “We have organised a wonderful person to help me write my memoirs. It’s something I simply couldn’t do without his help, and I feel very grateful that he is so dedicated to the task!”

We were founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War. Now, we support veterans regardless of when they served, or how they lost their sight.

‘Victory over blindness’ is a phrase first used by our founder, Sir Arthur Pearson, and continues to guide our principles today. Within a few years of our founding we were supporting more than 3,000 First World War blind veterans with rehabilitation and training, allowing them to achieve victory over blindness.

Speaking at the ceremony, Her Royal Highness said: “This statue commemorates not only the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, but also the life-changing support we offer to vision-impaired ex-Service men and women since that conflict through to the present day.

“As we approach the anniversary of the end of the First World War and, quite rightly, remember all of those who never returned, it is also important to remember those who did, changed by their experiences.

"“I have seen at first hand the difference the charity makes to the lives of blind veterans and I am looking forward to meeting many more blind veterans here today and hearing their stories.”"
HRH The Countess of Wessex

Jim was one of several of our veterans to meet HRH. Some were blinded in conflict, like Simon Brown and Ken Facal, while others lost their sight much later in life. As part of the unveiling ceremony they lined up next to the statue to represent our ongoing support and commitment to them, and the others like them who we have yet to reach.