It was announced last week (25/08) that a new statue commemorating the end of the First World War will be unveiled in Manchester this October.
The statue, of seven blinded First World War soldiers, will be permanently placed outside Manchester Piccadilly Station as a memorial to the injured of that conflict.
Commissioned by military charity Blind Veterans UK, the statue, entitled Victory Over Blindness, depicts the seven soldiers after losing their sight, marching with their hand on the shoulder of the man in front.
Blind Veterans UK was founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War. Now, the charity supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.
Victory over blindness is a phrase first used by the founder of Blind Veterans UK, Sir Arthur Pearson, and continues to guide the charity’s principles today. Blind Veterans UK supported more than 3,000 First World War blind veterans with rehabilitation and training allowing them to achieve victory over blindness.
Speaking about the statue, Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said:
“Helping blind veterans achieve victory over blindness is the cornerstone of everything we do, and have always done, at Blind Veterans UK. In 2018 victory over blindness means enabling blind veterans to lead the lives they choose.
“Blind Veterans UK enables ex-Service men and women to rebuild their lives after sight loss through free services and lifelong practical and emotional support. We support all blind veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight. The statue demonstrates the life-changing impact the charity has had over the last 103 years.
“This statue is our way of commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War and recognising the amazing work achieved by our veterans at that time and ever since.”
The sculpture was conceived and designed by artist and sculptress Johanna Domke-Guyot and funded by the generous donations of The Gosling Foundation as well as other individuals and organisations. The location of the statue at Manchester Piccadilly has also been made possible thanks to the support of Network Rail.
“I’m over the moon with how the statue has turned out. It’s been a very long journey and I underestimated how emotional I would feel about the whole process. The time I’ve had with these seven figures over these years and seeing them come to life has been really amazing.
“Bringing them to life again in a bronze that will last for years and years is overwhelming. People will be able to touch them, I want it to become a people’s piece.”
Johanna was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994 and studied art as a way of dealing with her illness.
She adds: “I remember deciding one day after my diagnosis that I didn’t want to give up. I went back into education and found a new love. I started the piece this bronze is based on in 2011. It was like art therapy for me and, due to relapses, took years in the end.
“My MS means that my fingers are pretty numb so people are always interested in how I’m able to sculpt with so little feeling. I have developed my own techniques over time.”
The seven First World War blind veterans will stand proudly outside Manchester Piccadilly Station and will be the only permanent memorial in the UK marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Blind Veterans UK supports over 4,700 blind and vision-impaired veterans today. More than ever before in the charity’s history and 50 per cent more than the total number of veterans the charity supported who lost their sight as a result of their service in WWI. The charity estimates there are up to 50,000 blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women who are entitled to their support but not aware of it.
Nick Caplin said:
“If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and is now battling severe sight loss then please do get in touch with us.”
Visit blindveterans.org.uk/victory to learn more about the statue, the charity and how you can support its vital work today.
For all media enquiries please contact:
Blind Veterans UK
12 – 14 Harcourt Street
T: 020 7616 7980
M: 07834 996394 / 07894 930352
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.
Find out more at: blindveterans.org.uk
Follow us on Facebook at: facebook.com/blindveteransuk
And on Twitter at: twitter.com/blindveterans