Norman Perry, who now lives at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Ovingdean, is the longest serving beneficiary of the charity alive today and one of the longest of all time.
He was presented with a plaque and silver salver to mark the achievement at a special ceremony.
Speaking about reaching the milestone Norman says: “It makes me feel very old! I am proud because St Dunstan’s has been a hugely important part of my life, it’s very nice of them to do this.”
Norman was only 18 years old when he became gun sergeant, with his own gun and gun crew. He was two years too young to go overseas and was posted to Borden as a drill instructor.
He says: “That wasn’t my idea of a war. I had a word with my RSM who told me to put in for a transfer back. I did, and three months later I was in France with my old regiment.”
Norman fought in Lilles and Ypres before landing in Newport in Belgium. In 1941 he was shipped out the Middle East, beginning a period of fighting all over the world. He remembers battles in Iraq, Suez, Egypt, Libya and the Western Deserts.
It was during one of these battles, in the Sahara, that Norman lost his sight, when the Germans attacked with trench mortars. He remembers:
“I was directing a gun teller, when I got one piece of metal in each eye at the same time. That spun me round, and something big hit me in the back. When I dropped, I got some more bits and pieces in the right thigh. I heard a sergeant saying: ‘He’s had it’, and in the best army language I could muster, I told him I hadn’t.”
After initial training at the Blind Veterans UK (then known as St Dunstan’s) centre in Cape Town, he returned to England in 1943 to finish his training at St Dunstan’s wartime centre, Church Stretton. From there, he moved to the RNIB physiotherapy school in London.
Norman married his childhood sweetheart and became a physiotherapist. He ran the physiotherapy department at Grimsby Hospital for 30 years, building up the department from two to eight qualified physiotherapists.
He adds: “With their physiotherapists, St Dunstan’s didn’t just say – you’re trained, right that’s it, you’re on your way. They would organise two courses a year for you to attend, to keep you up to date with all the new equipment and techniques that were going on.”
Norman also has a rich history with several sports teams at the charity, going to West Berlin in 1974 and 1978 to participate in international skiing, and implementing several archery events. He also won the archery for the blind contest at the British Sports Association for the Disabled National Games at Stoke Mandeville in 1976.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “It is a fantastic achievement for Norman to reach 75 years with Blind Veterans UK.
“He has been supported by the charity longer than any of our more than 4,000 blind veterans alive today and is still such a great presence around our Brighton centre.”
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in WWI. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning WWII to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight. Visit blindveterans.org.uk/support to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.
For all media enquiries please contact: Mark Wheeler, PR Officer, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HD, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, T: 020 7616 7980
Notes to Editors
Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.