An RAF blind veteran from Yorkshire is set to march with her Air Cadet great-grandson at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday (12/11) with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
Janet Hazlewood, 86 from York, is being escorted by 13-year-old Dillon who is an Air Cadet, as they march together as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations with more than 40 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
“I will be so proud to have my young great-grandson beside me holding my hand. Dillon is feeling a bit nervous ahead of the day, but he has said he is honoured to be escorting his grandma.
“Remembrance is an opportunity to stop and think and to remind people why we don’t want war and it is fantastic to have someone alongside me from the younger generation.”
Janet joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1955 and served for two and a half years as a photographer, taking pictures for the identity cards. She was discharged as a Senior Aircraftwomen when she married. Her husband was also in the RAF and he served for 29 years.
“With my husband’s career, we had some fantastic postings in Germany, Cyprus and Singapore. Our son was even born in Singapore.”
Janet lost her sight around ten years ago due to macular degeneration in both of her eyes. Fortunately, she found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity in 2018.
“About seven years ago, my eyesight had deteriorated to the point that I decided to give up driving, that is what I miss the most. My mother also had macular degeneration and lost her sight overnight so I know all too well, what could be to come. I therefore do everything I can to maintain my eye health.
“Before I lost my sight, I volunteered for a number of sight loss organisations providing information to those who had lost their sight, driving them around and assisting with the provision of equipment and aids. I’d been doing these things for a long time.
“It was my welfare officer from the Air Force Association who asked if I knew about Blind Veterans UK. The charity had just started up a monthly meeting for blind veterans in York.
“I joined up and haven’t looked back; they’ve done so much for me. I’ve been loaned a magnifier for reading letters, I have a white stick, and talking scales to help me in the kitchen as I like cooking. The support I’ve had, along with these wonderful things I’ve been provided, has given me back some of my independence.
“Visiting the charity’s centres of wellbeing, is like going to heaven. I could spend all day in the arts and crafts room. The charity is wonderful, I can ring up if I am feeling fed up and ask if there is availability at the centres and then I can meet different people.
“Last year I visited the Llandudno Centre the week before Remembrance and I helped to fix all the poppies onto the blanket which covers the front of the building. It was a very special thing to be a part of.”
Janet will be marching with fellow blind veterans at the Cenotaph this Remembrance Sunday. She said:
“I am absolutely thrilled to be marching alongside my fellow blind veterans this Remembrance. It will be the first time I’ve taken part in the Cenotaph Parade in London. I’m anticipating that I will feel a warmth from the crowds around me which will give me a real boost.
“As I’m marching, I’ll be remembering the people that didn’t survive and didn’t get to come home. I was only young during the Second World War and I remember the grown ups around me making it feel like an exciting adventure to be going down to the shelter every night but it must have been terrifying for them. I’ll also be thinking of my husband who died when he was just 54.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Adrian Bell said:
“At Remembrance, we commemorate the brave sacrifice of all those who lost their lives for their country. We also reflect on the huge challenges faced by veterans living with life-changing injuries from their time in service.
“I’m proud to be marching alongside Janet and our contingent of over 40 blind veterans at the Cenotaph this year, and I know there will be many more attending moving ceremonies in communities up and down the country.
“This year marks important anniversaries for our veterans, not least the 20th anniversary since the invasion of Iraq and 70 years since the end of the Korean War. With these in mind, we will be particularly thinking of all those tragically lost and wounded in these conflicts, and of their families.”
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans like Janet, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
“I would urge people to get in touch with Blind Veterans UK if you think you may be eligible for their support and grab onto them with both hands. The charity is so helpful and the staff can’t do enough.”
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/apply.