Blind veteran from Northampton off to the Buckingham Palace to celebrate centenary of military charity

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A veteran who has received vital support from Blind Veterans UK will be celebrating the centenary of the charity at a special Buckingham Palace Garden party next week.

Geoffrey Simms, 79 and from Northampton, will be visiting the palace with more than 1,000 other veterans helped by Blind Veterans UK, to mark the military charity’s 100 years of proud service and support to blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

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Geoffrey served in the Army in 26 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery in Egypt. He trained in Oswestry before being posted to the Middle East, spending 13 months in the Canal Zone, a memory that particularly stands out for him. He will join fellow veterans along with his wife, Edna.

Geoffrey has received help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2009. He has been losing his sight gradually due to macular degeneration for most of his life.

Geoffrey says: “I was told that eventually I would go blind, a scary thing to hear at 18 years old. But luckily I was still able to have a successful teaching career.”

Geoffrey has had several visits to the Blind Veterans UK centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno. He has benefitted greatly from the independent living courses but the greatest discovery for Geoffrey has been his new found love of arts and crafts.

He says: “On a woodworking course in Brighton, I made toys for my grandchildren and a birdbox for my garden. While I was working on these, I noticed someone painting a beautiful landscape. I wanted to try it because I couldn’t imagine how someone with sight loss could paint but I soon found out that with the right techniques and support, it’s possible.”

Geoffrey says: “I’ve had the most fascinating conversations with other veterans at the centres. It’s so easy to talk to people there as we are all connected a common bond of sight loss and service.”

Geoffrey and his wife Edna will be joining other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK at a special garden party at Buckingham Palace in June.

He added: “My wife is also really looking forward to meeting other people who care for blind veterans. She’ll probably talk to more people than I will!”

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 blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity’s 100-year history and how you can support its vital work today.