A blind veteran from South Yorkshire is set to march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday (11/11) with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
Brian Marshall, aged 67, and from Doncaster, will be marching at the Cenotaph as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
This year the commemorations are particularly significant as the nation marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.
Brian said: “The remembrance parade on the TV is a must for me every year. But for me to be able to actually march at the Cenotaph during the centenary year is a true honour. It’s a big thank you to those guys in the First World War who gave their life for people like me to have a life now.”
Aged 16, Brian joined the Army Junior Leaders Regiment as a musician, but was medically discharged due to a congenital defect in his left eye. He went on to work in various jobs as a painter and decorator in South Yorkshire until he reached his 50s, when an onset of age-related macular degeneration caused the sight in his right eye to rapidly deteriorate.
Brian explains: “I take eye drops to maintain what little sight I have got. I’m what they call ‘grey blind’ now so, it’s as if there is a thick fog over everything but I can still make out shadows and silhouettes.”
Brian was initially reluctant to ask for help. He says: “I was at a point where I had lost my sight and I had lost the confidence to go out on my own. I’d known about Blind Veterans UK but it took my support worker to sit me down and give me a good talking to in order to realise that I needed to shut my pride away and accept help. It was the best thing I ever did.”
Brian says: “Blind Veterans UK has helped me so much, they’ve provided me with a tablet and a phone, and training on how to use them with the special adapted software. They also gave me long cane training which gave me the courage to go out by myself. What they’ve done for me is incredible.”
Brian says: “When I found out that I would be marching at the Cenotaph I immediately contacted my old regiment, the 13th/18th Royal Hussars; they were an old Yorkshire regiment. I asked them what the protocol was for marching and they sent me a side hat, which I will be wearing with pride.”
Brian, who was previously a musician in the Army, says: “There is nothing finer than British Army musicians, they are fantastic. Just to stand and listen to guards playing, and marching to that beat will be incredible. I will be proud as punch to represent Blind Veterans UK at the Cenotaph; they’ve rebuilt my life.”
Brian says: “Blind Veterans UK is more than just a charity, they don’t treat me like a member. I feel like we’re part of one big extended family; everyone’s in the same boat and everyone is just so nice. I’m so proud to be part of the Blind Veterans UK family.”
Blind Veterans UK was founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War. Now, the charity supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight. The charity has a dedicated community team in Yorkshire who provide support including training, equipment and social events for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women in the local area.
In October Blind Veterans UK unveiled a bronze statue of seven blinded First World War soldiers outside Manchester Piccadilly station. It is the only permanent memorial in the UK marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB said: “Remembrance Sunday is a very poignant time for our blind veterans as we reflect on the sacrifice and service of all members of the Armed Forces.”
“Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 in response to the more than 3,000 veterans who were blinded as a result of the First World War. Today we support more blind veterans than ever before in our history, providing them with the support and training to rebuild their lives after sight loss.”
Visit blindveterans.org.uk/victory to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.