Blind veteran Norman Perry recently celebrated 75 years with charity and NCF member Blind Veterans. On the 10 March, Norman had officially been supported by the charity for exactly 75 years, more than any other blind veteran we currently support.
Norman is 97 and now lives at the training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton. He was presented with a plaque and silver salver to mark the achievement at a special ceremony on the 10th. Speaking about reaching the milestone Norman says: “It makes me feel very old! I am proud because St Dunstan’s has been a hugely important part of my life, it’s very nice of them to do this.”
Norman was only 18 years old when he became gun sergeant, with his own gun and gun crew. He was two years too young to go overseas and was posted to Borden as a drill instructor. He fought in Lilles and Ypres before landing in Newport in Belgium. In 1941 he was shipped out the Middle East, beginning a period of fighting all over the world. He remembers battles in Iraq, Suez, Egypt, Libya and the Western Deserts.
It was during one of these battles, in the Sahara, that Norman lost his sight, when the Germans attacked with trench mortars. He remembers:
“I was directing a gun teller, when I got one piece of metal in each eye at the same time. That spun me round, and something big hit me in the back. When I dropped, I got some more bits and pieces in the right thigh. I heard a sergeant saying: ‘He’s had it’, and in the best army language I could muster, I told him I hadn’t.”
After initial training at the Blind Veterans UK (then known as St Dunstan’s) centre in Cape Town, he returned to England in 1943 to finish his training at St Dunstan’s wartime centre, Church Stretton. From there, he moved to the RNIB physiotherapy school in London. Norman married his childhood sweetheart and became a physiotherapist. He ran the physiotherapy department at Grimsby Hospital for 30 years, building up the department from two to eight qualified physiotherapists.
Norman also has a rich history with several sports teams at the charity, going to West Berlin in 1974 and 1978 to participate in international skiing, and implementing several archery events. He also won the archery for the blind contest at the British Sports Association for the Disabled National Games at Stoke Mandeville in 1976.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said:
“It is a fantastic achievement for Norman to reach 75 years with Blind Veterans UK. “He has been supported by the charity longer than any of our more than 4,000 blind veterans alive today and is still such a great presence around our Brighton centre.”