EIGHT blind veterans from across East Anglia headed over to the Muckleburgh Collection last week to try their hands at tank driving organised by Blind Veterans UK and the Muckleburgh Collection.

The eight vision-impaired ex-Service men boarded the 432 Self-Propelled Armoured Personnel Carrier and cruised through the grounds of the Muckleburgh Collection, with one former Gunner even having the chance to drive.

East Anglian blind veterans experience tank driving at Muckleburgh

The men hailed from a variety of communities across East Anglia including Fakenham, Peterborough, Cromer, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

Peter Price, 69 and from Peterborough, is one of the blind veterans who took part in the day. He says:

“My father was a tank commander during the Second World War, all the way from Normandy to the end of the war. He said he always had his head stuck out of the top and I wanted to see how that felt. It turns out it was tremendous, but then again no one was shooting at me!”

Roan Webb, 49 and from Ipswich, was the lucky one to drive the tank on the day. He says:

“It was fantastic. It took a little bit of time to remember how to use the controls because it’s been a good long while since I drove a tracked vehicle but it came back pretty quickly and it was exhilarating.”

Roan joined the Royal Artillery in 1986 and was posted to Germany where he was stationed for four years until he was discharged as a Gunner in 1990 due to his sight loss.

Roan explains: “I have something called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is believed to be a hereditary condition. I suffer at the lighter end of the spectrum whereas there are many of my peers who have lost almost all their sight. I haven’t yet, so I try to do as much as I possibly can while I still have the sight that I do today.”

He continues: “Blind Veterans UK has helped me in numerous and varied ways. At first, it was just great to meet the staff and other veterans supported by the charity and realise that I wasn’t alone. Then I started getting involved in lots of events, and I haven’t looked back since. Blind Veterans UK have given me equipment which shows that by making small adaptations, it’s possible to do things that I never thought I would have been able to do.”

The Muckleburgh Collection is sited on the former Royal Artillery Anti-Aircraft training camp at Weybourne on the North Norfolk coast. Most of its extensive range of tanks and armoured cars are in working condition. Exhibits include artillery, machine guns and missiles in addition to an excellent collection of ships and land warfare models.

The collection was started in 1988 by Sir Michael Savory and his late father, Squadron Leader Berry Savory, who served in the RAF during World War II. Sir Michael says: “Blind Veterans UK is a fantastic cause and we were pleased to be a part of this amazing event. It was brilliant to see the smiles on the chaps’ faces as they took a ride down memory lane.”

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915, and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War 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.