Herts Blind Veteran Marches At The Cenotaph

12 November 2017, 11:04 | Updated: 12 November 2017, 11:13

Ron Wells

A blind veteran from Hertfordshire is part of today's march at the Cenotaph in London.

Ron Wells, 85 and from Watford, is marching at the Cenotaph in London with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

Ron says:

"This will be my first year marching at the Cenotaph and it's safe to say I'm extremely excited. My father was wounded at the Somme and I had a cousin who sadly lost his life in a parachuting attack, so for me, Remembrance is a time to think about family."

Ron joined the Army in 1950 as part of his National Service.

He says:

"I undertook my training in Colchester and then did six weeks' jungle training for Malaysia. I was only out there for six months as, unfortunately, I suffered a strained kidney in a judo accident."

Ron was then sent back to Warminster and Bury St. Edmunds, before finishing his Service in Kingston Barracks Bedford. From 1952 he then served on a part-time basis in the Army Emergency Reserve. He was discharged in March 1955 as a Private and awarded a General Service Medal for his Service in Malaysia.

Ron reflects:

"I think my time serving made a man of me. As soon as I came home, I got married to my wife, Kathleen, and we're still happily married to this day!"

It wasn't until 1978 that Ron's sight began to rapidly deteriorate as a result of age-related macular degeneration. He explains: "By the time I got to 45 I noticed that there was something drastically wrong with my sight. I think I just took it in my stride really, as something that was a natural process of getting old." 

It was a chance encounter in hospital that led Ron to Blind Veterans UK.

He explains: "I was waiting to see the eye specialist and there was a young lady there selling these magnifying glasses and various other pieces of equipment. It all looked fantastic but there was no way we could afford it. My wife was talking about asking the family to all pitch in when the lady asked me if I was in the army. I told her I did National Service and so she told me I'd be eligible for the support of Blind Veterans UK - I couldn't believe it!

The charity has changed my life. The best thing has been the iPad and radio. I've got all my favourite programmes and stations on there."

In addition to the equipment, Ron has been to the charity's training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton twice.

Ron says:

"I thought it was all absolutely brilliant. The number of things you're told you can achieve, despite your sight loss, was really quite something. My wife and I have truly been overwhelmed by the support we've received from the organisation. I couldn't possibly imagine what we'd do without them now!"

Ron is set to march with other vision-impaired ex-Service men and women supported by Blind Veterans UK as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations in London on Sunday 12 November 2017. Specsavers stores across the UK will be fundraising from 6 to 12 November on behalf of Blind Veterans UK to help Ron, and others like him, march at the Cenotaph.

Specsavers has supported Blind Veterans UK since 2012 and, as well as raising money for the charity, has referred a number of customers to them so they can access its support.

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB says: "Remembrance Sunday is always a very poignant time for our blind veterans and it is fantastic that Specsavers are able to support them to get to march at the Cenotaph.

"Today, Blind Veterans UK supports more blind and vision-impaired veterans than ever before in the charity's history and we have set an ambitious target to double the number of veterans we support in the next five years."

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss. The charity estimates that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting blindveterans.org.uk