A military charity that has had a base in Sussex for over 100 years held a special event on 3 August 2023 to formally stand down its centre in Ovingdean near Brighton after more than 80 years of service.
Blind Veterans UK held the standing down event in preparation for moving to its new Sussex home in Rustington next month.
The standing down event was set to the soundtrack of music and performances from artists including the Brighton Male Voice Choir, The Not Forgotten Association, and Ruth Fahie and Big Band but even they couldn’t compete with the sound of the spectacular Spitfire Aerial Display over the building.
The standing down of the centre was also marked by a group of blind veterans marching a time capsule, buried in 2015 to mark 100 years of Blind Veterans UK, the 22 miles along the coast to the charity’s new centre in Rustington.
The capsule contains items and documents detailing the history of the organisation. Among them is a talking watch, the first piece of equipment offered to every Blind Veterans UK beneficiary, a memory stick containing images from the Ovingdean centre’s history and a copy of The Argus. It is still set to be opened in 2115, 100 years after it was originally buried.
Mark Threadgold, 55 and from Saltdean, was one of the blind veterans walking the time capsule to Rustington. He said:
“It’s a tradition in the army to march from your old barracks to your new ones so this is a great way to mark the closing of the old centre and the opening of Rustington.
“Blind Veterans UK has been supporting veterans like me for 108 years so it’s even older than the regiment I was in. It’s so important to remember the veterans that came before us so I was so proud to be part of the group that’s transporting the time capsule to the new centre.”
Gary Hart and Poppy Gold of the Veterans Volunteer Service joined Blind Veterans UK on the walk. Poppy said:
“The Veterans Volunteer Service was set up so veterans could volunteer to pass on the skills they learned in the military to disadvantaged people in their community. We’re a West Sussex based charity and wanted to join the walk to welcome Blind Veterans UK to the local area. The charity is very close to our hearts and we’re really looking forward to working together in the months and years ahead.”
Blind Veterans UK opened its centre in Ovingdean in 1938 although they soon moved out at the start of the Second World War. Before then, the charity’s association with Sussex dates to just after its founding in 1915 including one of its first bases in Kemptown from 1917.
Blind Veterans UK Centre Manager, Lesley Garven MBE, said:
“It was a very special day with music being enjoyed and memories being shared and it was fantastic to be joined by many of our blind veterans who have had their lives transformed in this building. The highlight for everyone was definitely the Spitfire Aerial Display.”
Blind Veterans UK is currently recruiting for a number of new roles in its Rustington Centre in areas like housekeeping, care including Registered Nurses, security, administration, and transport. Anyone interested in applying can find out more at blindveterans.org.uk/roles.
Lesley Garven added:
“The life-changing work we do here will be continued in our new Rustington home and we look forward to becoming a real part of that community and having new people join the team to play a real part supporting blind veterans every day.”