Blind Veterans UK......
Who we are
We are Blind Veterans UK and we believe that no one who has served our country should battle blindness alone.
That's why we're here to help with lifelong practical and emotional support which we provide to Armed Forces and National Service veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.
We help veterans recover their independence and discover a life beyond sight loss
What we do
We provide vision impaired Armed Forces and National Service veterans with the person-centred services and tailored support they need to discover life beyond sight loss. Blind Veterans UK's work ranges from helping veterans relearn vital life skills and providing them with the tools they need to be independent in their own homes, to offering new learning, training and recreation opportunities and providing long-term nursing, residential and respite care.
Sir Arthur Pearson, who owned the Evening Standard and founded the Daily Express, established Blind Veterans UK in 1915. Having lost his own sight through glaucoma, he was shocked at society's attitude to blindness. He decided to help those who had lost their vision in the First World War by giving them the care and rehabilitation they needed to lead constructive, self-sufficient lives.
Sir Arthurs aim was for these veterans returning from war blind or visually impaired to:
Accept - Accept that they had lost their sight
Adjust - Adjust to becoming visually impaired
Achieve - To achieve what they wanted in life regardless of their sight loss for themselves, there families and their communities.
Sir Arthur lost his sight as a result of glaucoma and, just prior to it failing completely, in 1913 joined the Council of the then National Institute for the Blind (now the RNIB). He had already been actively involved in the charity world, including in 1892 founding the fresh Air Fund, later Pearson’s Holiday Fund, which provided holidays and outings for disadvantaged children and young people. This charity continued its work for nearly 120 years, closing in 2011. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Pearson met with those who had returned home blinded; the increasing numbers of these led to our being founded in January 1915, originally as the Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Care Committee.
Sir Arthur worked devotedly over the next few years to provide rehabilitation, training, care and ongoing support to the thousands of men (and the few women) of this country and its allies who had lost their sight as a result of the war. Their own testimonies bear witness to how many of them found inspiration from Pearson’s own example to believe that an independent, successful, and – importantly – happy life after suddenly losing their sight was possible.
Sir Arthur tragically died in a domestic accident aged only 55. His funeral took place on 13th December 1921 near to our then headquarters in Regent’s Park, at Holy Trinity Church in Marylebone. It was conducted by the Bishop of London and one of those assisting was the Rev Harold Gibb, who had himself served and been blinded in the war. Nearly 1,500 blind veterans assembled in London, but the total number of those who came to pay tribute is even more startling, and was reported on worldwide. There is no exact figure for how many were in Marylebone but the Glasgow Herald stated that ‘During the service a silent crowd of some thousands of people lined the streets in the immediate vicinity of the church’, whilst the Sydney Morning Herald put the figure at 2000 and described the funeral as ‘…one of the most touching and imposing ever seen in London’. Eleven memorial services elsewhere in the country took place simultaneously with the funeral. The burial service at Hampstead Cemetery also had thousands present, with 300 wreaths transforming the cemetery into what our magazine, the Review, described as ‘a garden of glorious flowers’.
Blind Veterans UK has always paid tribute to our founder with an annual visit to Hampstead Cemetery which now takes place on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. The grave is now also the resting place of Sir Arthur’s wife Ethel and his son Neville, both of whom served as our President.
Blind Veterans UK today
Nearly a century later, Blind Veterans UK not only cares for ex-Service men and women blinded in action, but for veterans who have lost their sight through accident, illness or old age. We have three centres (in Brighton, Llandudno and Sheffield) that provide residential and respite care plus sports facilities, as well as qualified welfare staff who help blind veterans across the UK to live independently within their own communities.
To learn more about Blind Veterans UK please visit www.blindveterans.org.uk
Joey with Blind Veteran Billy Baxter at BVUK Llandudno
Billy is a member and Rehabilitation Training Liaison Officer and is based at the Llandudno centre.
In 2003 Billy set the blind solo world land speed record on a motorbike with a speed of 164.87 mph (265.33 km/h) - it took 10 years for the record to be beaten!