A 91-year-old blind veteran from Suffolk exhibited and sold his artwork to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Bob Cornwall, from Haverhill, displayed around 100 of his watercolour paintings at an event in Bury St Edmunds on 28 October.
Bob first enlisted into the British Army in 1949 and served for two years before being discharged and signing up for the Territorial Army with whom he served for another 16 years.
At the age of 49, Bob began to struggle with his eyesight and was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes.
Bob can still see images but they are blurred and he is unable to read words but his love of painting has been with him throughout his life and now helps to combat loneliness and maintains his mental wellbeing.
“My love for art began at the age of five thanks to a particularly severe winter in around 1936. My Uncle Ted took us to the park to make a snowman and then suggested we make an igloo which collapsed on top of me and from then on, I didn’t like the snow!
“If we were sent out in it, I would hide in my sister’s room under a blanket with a pencil and draw.
“I now go to an art club, they sit me by the window so I have the bright light to help me and I can still enjoy all the beautiful colours I paint with. I enjoy painting lots of different things such as landscapes, animals, and buildings.
“My painting helps me by taking me away to somewhere else, many of my paintings are from photographs of past holidays and experiences and my artwork allows me to revisit those happy times.”
Bob has been supported by Blind Veterans UK since last year and has been provided with an Alexa and tablet device to help him carry out day-to-day tasks.
“I really enjoyed the event and talking to people about my artwork. I believe about £150 was raised on the day from the sale of my paintings and of Brian’s photographs.”
Bob was joined at the event by fellow blind veteran Brian Julian who is a keen photographer and displayed several of his favourite pictures.
“I am honoured to have been invited to support Bob with his exhibition.”
Brian, who is 84 and from Bury St Edmunds, served in the British Army for 22 years. He began his career as tank crew but after eight years transferred to air crew and trained as a helicopter pilot.
“My love for photography began in 1951 with a box Brownie camera and has grown ever since. I lost my sight ten years ago due to age related macular degeneration and I thought my photography days were over.
“However, I joined Blind Veterans UK in 2017 and the team made me understand there was life after sight loss and encouraged me to give photography another go.
“I describe myself as a happy snapper and take pictures of anything that interests me. I have a normal camera and a friend helps me to set it up how I want it to be to capture the shot.”
Brian said: “The pictures I selected to display were some of my favourites. It may be they are technically good, or it may be that I just like them.
“I hoped others would like them too and they’d help to bring in a bit of money for the charity which has helped to make my life easier and encouraged me back to photography.”
Sallie-Ann Nicol, who is a Community Support Worker for Blind Veterans UK said:
“This exhibition was a wonderful opportunity to showcase what can be achieved regardless of sight loss. Bob and Brian are both incredibly talented and a true inspiration to others.
“The event would not have been possible without Lydia Granfield at Combat for Coffee whose venue we used for not only this event, but monthly for get togethers with our local blind veterans. Also, thank you to Wayne Ward who is our local contact for the NHS’s Op Courage who supported this event. Both of these organisations work closely with us to provide support for veterans locally.”
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/support