Blind veteran to join march to cenotaph

Blind veteran John Cantwell, from Banbury, will be marching to the cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. NNL-160811-110414001
Blind veteran John Cantwell, from Banbury, will be marching to the cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. NNL-160811-110414001
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A veteran from Banbury will be joining more than 100 other blind veterans in a march to the Cenotaph, in London on Remembrance Sunday.

John Cantwell, 68, will be representing the charity Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired former service men and women.

Mr Cantwell said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be attending the national commemorations with Blind Veterans UK again. They’re a great bunch of guys, you never know who you’re stood next to and what their story is.

“It always is an emotional day. It’s about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Even now there are those who our putting their lives on the line to help defend people who cannot defend themselves.”

Mr Cantwell joined the Royal Air Force in 1970 where he was part of the Motor Transport Service Section (MTSS). While with the RAF he was stationed in RAF St Athan, RAF Lucas, RAF Old Sarum, RAF Salalah, Cyprus and Anguila. He met his wife, RAF nurse, Elaine, while he was stationed in Cyprus. He left the RAF in 1980.

He said: “While we were stationed at RAF Salalah in Dhofar the local rebels threw mortars at the RAF base. The MTSS building had a shiny roof so they would aim at that. Luckily, they always missed because they had such terrible aim.”

Mr Cantwell suffers from a genetic skin disease called keratosis pilaris also known as ‘chicken skin’ disease. He says the disease never troubled him, however a side effect was that it has gradually made him lose his sight.

He said: “It was very gradual so I had time to adjust. They told me they couldn’t do anything to fix my eyes, which strangely was a blessing as I had to accept it and it made me adapt to my circumstances.”

Mr Cantwell has been receiving free help and support from Blind Veterans UK since 2010. He has gone on many training and activity weeks with the charity, including a recent walking week in Snowdonia and Manchester.

> Banbury’s Remembrance Day service will start with a military parade and civic procession from Banbury Town Hall to St Mary’s Church at 10.15am for a 10.45am service. It will be followed by the laying of wreaths at the war memorial in People’s Park at midday and a return parade for dismissal in Broad Street.