A blind veteran from Sussex has been gifted an illustration of himself inspired by his personal D-Day memories.
Ken Hobbs, who is 100 years old, joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1942 and became a driver, delivering essential cargo across England.
On 6 June 1944, Ken drove his vehicle onto Sword Beach and recalls meeting a Frenchman at the top of the beach, who said: “Hello Tommy, I knew you’d come back one day.”
It was this anecdote that inspired artist Tim Godden’s illustration of Ken.
Ken is supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women. He lives at the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Rustington and it was here that he received a special visit from Tim.
“These illustrations are my own small way of saying thank you to those who served. I am very interested in the history of the Second World War and having this opportunity to engage with the last generation of men who lived this period of history is a huge honour.
“These brave and selfless men saw the events of the Second World War and D-Day in colour, not black and white, and they all have their own individual stories to tell. I hope to meet and illustrate as many as I can.”
Tim travelled from his home in Devon to personally present his illustration to Ken and the two men spent time talking about Ken’s experience during the war and Tim described his illustration to Ken.
During the D-Day invasion, Ken drove back and forth, close to the frontline, moving ammunition, fuel and materials as they were needed. He then drove through France, on to Holland, and finally to victory in Germany.
“There was no time to think, we just kept going. We kept up with the Germans and stayed out of trouble.”
Ken spoke of his work waterproofing the lorries so they could be driven in the sea.
“No one had driven in the sea before. We extended the exhaust pipe above the cab, then waterproofed the back axle, gearbox and engine. We used a lot of insulation tape, all the pipes and joints had to be wound around and then we used putty to seal it all up.
“It was something that no one had done before; we did a wonderful job.”
Last year Tim and his wife took their young sons to Normandy to visit the war cemeteries and he has since taken his sons to meet some of the veterans he has illustrated.
He told Ken:
“I will pass on all your stories to my children. They were disappointed that I was meeting you today without them.”
Ken was happy to hear that Tim had taken his children to Normandy and that, with the 80-year anniversary of D-Day approaching, people of all generations are still interested in hearing his story.
Before Tim left, Ken signed a copy of the illustration for Tim to hang on the wall at home for his sons.
Ken lost sight in his left eye following an accident just after the war ended, but went on to work as a bus driver.
He was diagnosed with macular degeneration later in life and has previously said:
“Blind Veterans UK have been brilliant to me. It’s awful when you lose your sight, as suddenly you can’t do the things that you used to be able to do.
“The charity has given me lots of equipment like a magnifier which means I can continue to read using the little sight that I have left.
“One of the best things about Blind Veterans UK is being able to meet others in the same situation as myself as not only do we have a shared background in the military but we also face the same challenges that come with sight loss.”
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/gethelp.