A Second World War veteran from Derbyshire will march with other blind veterans to the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday for Blind Veterans UK.
Kenneth Godfrey, 90, will join more than 100 other representatives of Blind Veterans UK, which this year celebrates its 100 years of service to vision impaired ex-Service men and women.
Kenneth was called up in 1943, aged 18, during World War Two and served as an infantryman in the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. His division landed in Ver-Sur-Mer beach in Normandy three days after D-Day.
The largest seaborne invasion in history, the Normandy landings freed France from Nazi control and helped the Allies to victory in North-West Europe.
Later he took part in Operation Market Garden, a bold Allied military operation that attempted to end the war by Christmas 1944.
After the war, the battalion served in the British Army of the Rhine (BOAR) in Germany and looked after displaced people from different countries. He was discharged in October 1947 as a Colour Sergeant.
Kenneth said: “I was lucky. Working in the infantry was called PBI – poor bloody infantry – we were basically cannon fodder. I survived the entire war in the infantry where there was no one between us and the enemy.”
Kenneth lost his sight due to a combination of macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss in those over fifty, cataracts and glaucoma. He gave up driving in 2010 and had to sell his car.
“It got worse and worse. I was told at the hospital that there was no more they could do for me. I started doing little things to prepare myself for going blind, such as making sure my cereal bowl was in the same place every day.”
Kenneth discovered Blind Veterans UK through a leaflet on the hospital receptionist desk. He started receiving support from the charity in 2014 to help him to live independently with sight loss.
“The support from Blind Veterans UK has given me a new lease of life. It’s made all the difference. I’ve had more support from Blind Veterans UK than I’ve had from any other organisation.”
He has received training and equipment to help him support him to live independently including talking books, a boom box, and coloured sunglasses to protect his eyes from bright sunlight.
“The CCTV reader is particular brilliant – it allows me to blow up documents so I can read it and handle my own correspondence.”
Kenneth will be marching for the first time to the Cenotaph together with more than 100 other blind veterans on Remembrance Sunday for Blind Veterans UK.
“Remembrance to me means never ever forgetting what the men who got killed in the First and Second World War did for us. I’ve been on the battlefield and seen some horrific things but I’ve been incredibly lucky and survived.
“I’ve marched many places, including Arnhem, while on pilgrimages but I was over the moon when I heard I could get to march with Blind Veterans UK. I’ve always wanted to pay my respects at the Cenotaph in London and I’m thrilled to do so with the charity and other blind veterans.”
Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War I.
But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War II to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For 100 years, 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 www.blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity’s 100 year history and how you can support its vital work today.