Tommy and Ken's story
The two war blinded veterans developed their love of sport and fitness into a career with our support.
Tommy enlisted with the 1st Irish Guards and in May 1914. Six months later at the age of just 18 he was the victim of a bullet through the head at La Basseé in France, causing him to lose his sight. On his transfer back to the UK our founder Sir Arthur Pearson met Tommy at the hospital and brought him to London for training.
Tommy was one of the first, and youngest, men to join us. He quickly showed an interest in sports and fitness and our staff encouraged him to join the rowing team, something he would train for in the early morning before starting his lessons in Braille and anatomy.
These skills helped Tommy successfully complete a training course at the National Institute for the Blind, becoming a qualified masseur. Like many of our blind veterans, Tommy was determined to use his success to motivate others. He used the skills he had acquired to teach Braille to soldiers blinded in the Second World War.
Ken, like Tommy, was blinded on duty.
In January 2010 he was on foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when his patrol discovered an improvised explosive device in the Taleban compound they were clearing.
Ken told comrades to back away. He was kneeling down, his colleague and now fellow blind veteran, Corporal Billy Drinkwater was standing behind him, marking the IED’s location when it detonated.
Ken woke up from being in a coma a month later.
We visited Ken in hospital and he came to our rehabilitation and training centre in Brighton during his recovery. We provided Ken with life skills training, IT equipment and encouraged him to get back to his fitness and try new activities. From being told he might never walk when he was in hospital, Ken has gone on to train as a fitness instructor.
"I was with my friend Billy and we were marking the device when it detonated. The force of the explosion left us with life threatening injuries and it was a long road to recovery. I lost one eye completely and much of the sight in the other. It was a life changing moment.”Ken
"I am stronger now than I was before. I do a bit of fitness instructing and do events every Saturday for people of all ages and fitness levels and train those with disabilities. It feels good to do it myself and I want to share that with others."Ken