Thomas and Peter Van Zeller's story
A father and son who have both been supported by our charity.
Peter, 96, served in both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Army. He recently became a resident at our Brighton centre and noticed our honours boards lining the hallways recording those of our blind veterans who have received medals and honours. There, on the first board was his father’s name – Thomas.
Peter’s father Thomas was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry near Brie on 23 March 1918 when in command of a tank. He was commended for covering the withdrawal of infantry troops across the Somme.
Later in the war Thomas was the only survivor when his tank was blown up causing him to suffer terrible facial injuries, losing one eye and damaging his vision in the other. Following 20 reconstructive surgeries he regained some of his vision, but later in life suffered a stroke and came to our charity, then St. Dunstan’s, for rehabilitation.
Thomas’s son Peter initially trained as a pilot but left the RAF after witnessing the death of a friend who lost control of his plane.
He went on to join the Army and was sent to France a week after the D-Day landings in one of the first reinforcements to arrive. Within a month he was shot in the arm by a sniper, causing him to lose his arm and he was fitted with a hook very similar to the one he still uses today.
Peter lost his sight much later in life due to glaucoma and macular degeneration and he started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2016.
“Blind Veterans UK has transformed my whole life. I may be 96 but thanks to the charity I’m fit, active and enjoy lots of hobbies in spite of my sight loss. Without them I don’t know where I’d be.”Peter