Our Falklands 40 appeal pays tribute to those who fought during the 74 dark, destructive days.
We want to share the stories of two blind veterans who were there. Forty years ago, blind veteran Alan celebrated his 18th birthday receiving the Argentinian surrender on West Falkland. And Terry returned home, seriously injured and completely unable to see.
For both these men, of course, life was never the same again. Thanks to your support, they have both led wonderful lives despite their sight loss. But, they both know just how different things could have been and how difficult life is right now for the other blind veterans who still need our help.
Falklands 40 – let’s honour their service.
For former Royal Marine commando Alan, then 17, his first wake-up call was being asked to write his Will aboard the commandeered cruise ship Canberra, as he approached the Falklands.
The second was watching HMS Antelope burn, “the world's most expensive firework show”. The third was 27 May 1982, when the planes stopped bombing the ships and instead turned on Alan and his comrades. That day, Alan received treatable leg injuries but one of his fellow marines, his friend, Mac, was killed.
It was while he was on the Falkland Islands that he realised his eyesight was failing. Not only robbed of his night vision, Alan says if there was “a cliff to fall down, if there was a trench to fall in, that was me”. Once home, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa: his career in the Marines was over. Alan says he felt that they might as well have shot him. “It's not just your career”, he says, “it's your family. It really is your family”. He was devastated.
He found Blind Veterans UK in 2006 and is particularly grateful for the lifelong support he knows he can depend on.
“When my sight totally goes, Blind Veterans UK will be there for me. They are a candle in the dark, they seriously are.”Alan, blind veteran
Having joined the Royal Navy in 1960, Terry, now 77, was on board HMS Antrim on 21 May, when four Argentine Skyhawk fighter-bombers passed over the ship, dropping a pattern of eight 1,000 lb bombs.
He felt a sickening impact. Terry had been hit by a cannon shell. Terry was treated first on board the Canberra and then operated on once he arrived on SS Uganda, the hospital ship. Nurse Nicci Pugh remembers him as incredibly stoic as her team battled - but failed - to save his sight.
Your support could rebuild a life
Terry says, “when you first lose your sight it’s like being taken back into infancy; you can’t get around”. By Autumn 1982, Terry had found our charity and had begun his rehabilitation, learning to type, read and write Braille, and use a long cane. He was inspired by the blind First and Second World War veterans he met: “I thought, if you can crack it, I’m certainly going to! They had overcome such challenges in their lives. The camaraderie together with the encouragement and support from Blind Veterans UK kept me positive and I found I was able to achieve more each day”.
Let’s honour these veterans who fought so valiantly. Your gift today could mean others enjoy life after sight loss, just as Terry and Alan have managed to. You can help us serve our veterans through their lives, just as they served us.