BLIND Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, has organised for a group of blind veterans to come together for a visit to the Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent.
The memorial sat upon the cliffs in Capel-le-Ferne near Folkstone, is dedicated to the heroic and selfless men who won the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Among those visiting the memorial on 21 October is 99-year-old Ken Guest who served as a bomb aimer and nose gunner onboard Lancasters and Wellingtons during the Second World War.
Ken’s son John said: “This will be dad’s first visit to the memorial but we have visited the Bomber Command Memorial at Green Park in London together which was a fantastic experience and very moving. Dad suffers from dementia and therefore lives in the moment but when he is there he will very much enjoy it.”
Just a week after the visit, Ken, who shares his time between living with his two sons in Kent and Carlisle, will celebrate his 100th birthday.
Ken enlisted into the Royal Air Force in 1943 and was discharged as a flight sergeant in 1946.
Of his time during the war, Ken said: “I was excited when I climbed into the plane, I had a good crew with me so I wasn’t scared. It crossed my mind on many occasions that it may be my last flight but I didn’t dwell on it.
“There was one close call when the landing gear failed and the pilot had to make a skilled crash landing on the Isle of Man. On another occasion, I was due to go on a mission but another lad who was late for the parade was sent instead as a punishment and he didn’t return from that flight.
“I was happy when the war ended and pleased that I had got through it without being shot down.”
Three years ago Ken’s eyesight began to deteriorate. He has glaucoma in both eyes and by July 2021 the optician told his family that he should be registered as blind.
Ken is able to see light and dark and can make out shapes but nothing more.
His son John said: “My dad is the most remarkable man and nothing, including the loss of his eyesight, seems to phase him. He is one of the kindest and friendliest men I know and he takes everything with good humour.
“The loss of his sight has put a lot more pressure on the family though. Dad first moved in with us seven years ago and at first, we were able to leave him for the day while we went out but his needs began to get greater and we now never leave him for more than an hour.”
Earlier this year Ken’s family were made aware of Blind Veterans UK and Ken began being supported by the charity in July.
John said: “Blind Veterans UK has been a huge support to us as a family, we enjoy events that are put on and we are able to meet other families who are going through the same thing. It’s a great comfort knowing others are there and we have Henry, my dad’s Community Support Worker, to help us with ideas. Dad has been provided with an audio player so he can listen to his music which is a great help.”
Henry Bufford works as a Community Support Worker for Blind Veterans UK and has been involved in organising the visit to the Battle of Britain Memorial. He said: “Trips like these are an opportunity for us to give well-deserved recognition to the service that our blind veterans gave to the country.
“Our blind veterans are often isolated and cannot easily go out to socialise; arranging events where they can meet each other and be comfortable and safe, is one of the key ways in which we support veterans such as Ken.”
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