Chris Humphrey, who is 71 years old and lives in Norwich, will be marching at the Cenotaph 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.
Chris joined the Royal Navy in 1967 as a radio operator and specialised in tactical communications. After serving on various frigates, destroyers and shore stations, he decided to finish his service when his engagement ended in 1978 so that he could be ashore with his family.
He says: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Navy. I only came out as it was best for my family as otherwise I would be away for 18 months at a time. It was brilliant to see the World and visit places I may never have been. Places like the Persian Gulf, West Indies, Singapore and parts of Africa.”
Chris lost his sight later in life due to pseudoxanthoma elasticum. He says: “I was working for the Coastguard when I lost my sight, but with some adaptations, I was able to carry on working for another two years. Unfortunately, as the specialist programmes developed, my screen reading software couldn’t keep up and I was forced to take early retirement.
“It was a difficult time. I was learning to adapt. I’d always been so independent and now I was having to ask people to do things for me.”
Fortunately, Chris found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity in 2003.
“I cannot praise Blind Veterans UK enough. As someone who lost my sight in later life, I was used to doing my own thing and being independent. Blind Veterans UK dispel the myth that if you’re blind you can’t do certain things, with the help of their specialist training and rehabilitation programme, you soon realise that you can do many of the things you did before and more besides.”
Chris will be marching with his fellow blind veterans at the Cenotaph this Remembrance Sunday. He says: “I’m very proud to be marching at the Cenotaph. I’ll be remembering all those who never returned from the battlefield.”
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB says: “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.
“This will be a special Remembrance Sunday as not only will it be a return to normality for the first time since the pandemic, but it will also be the first Remembrance since the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“As our former Patron and our Commander in Chief, Her Majesty held a very important place in the hearts of all members of Blind Veterans UK who have served their country in her name, and she will be uppermost in our thoughts at this time.”
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans like Chris, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss. The charity recently launched a campaign, proudly supported by Specsavers, to find and recruit these men and women.
Chris says: “If you’re struggling, get in touch with this brilliant charity. They’ll help you get your independence back and put a smile on your face. I guarantee it.”
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/support
While Blind Veterans UK initially cared for veterans blinded in active Service, today they help veterans no matter what caused their sight loss.