Two military charities have announced that they have agreed and exchanged contracts that will see Blind Veterans UK move into Princess Marina House (PMH) in Rustington, West Sussex.
The building, bought from the RAF Benevolent Fund, will be Blind Veterans UK’s new south coast home when they move from their iconic, but now unsuitable, centre in Ovingdean, East Sussex.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB says:
“We are very excited to be making the short trip along the Sussex coast and moving to our new Rustington home.
“The fact that we are buying this building from a fellow military charity is fantastic. PMH is very well known in the local area for providing care and support for veterans and we will be proud to continue that wonderful legacy in a local community that is very supporting.
“The blind veteran population we support today is very different to that of the 1930s, when our Ovingdean centre opened, and the average age of the veterans we support now is 87. Moving to this new building will mean we can offer different services, that far better suit their needs and the needs of future blind veterans.”
Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, says:
“We are really pleased that Princess Marina House will still be able to offer support for the military community, albeit in new ways and for a different group of veterans.
“The House is a unique space that holds a very special place in the memory of many RAF veterans and Fund staff and we wish Blind Veterans UK all the very best as they move to their West Sussex home.”
Lesley Garven, Blind Veterans UK Brighton Centre Manager, says:
“Although it will be a sad day when we finally close the doors in Ovingdean for the last time, we have the excitement of moving to our new home. Many great memories have been made over the last 83 years and we look forward to making many more in Rustington.
“One of the best things about this new building is its location. PMH is right on the beach and at the heart of the local community. This will mean that the centre and the local area will be far more accessible and we hope to become a real part of the Rustington community.”
Blind Veterans UK has had a base in Sussex since 1915, just weeks after the charity was founded to support those blinded in the First World War.
From 1917 the charity occupied a larger property in the Kemp Town area of Brighton. In addition to providing training and social activities, the centres in the county and elsewhere have variously served to provide holidays, a healthy seaside environment for those needing longer-term rehabilitation, and care for those who sadly have suffered with severe mental or physical health problems additional to their loss of sight.
Although initially founded to support those blinded in conflict, Blind Veterans UK now supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight. The vast majority of the 4,500 veterans currently supported have lost their sight due to age-related conditions such as macular degeneration.
Maureen Atkinson, 96, has been a resident in Ovingdean for four years. She says:
“Everyone has taken such good care of us in my time here, especially over the last year or so with the virus.
“I think the move is a very good idea and it’s lovely that all us residents will be able to move together.
“This is a great opportunity to start afresh, and I just hope I’ll still be here to enjoy the new place when we do move!”
You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK at blindveterans.org.uk where you can also find out more about supporting the charity in this new chapter.