Blind veteran invited to Queen’s Mall lunch

Blind veteran John Cantwell and walking coach
Blind veteran John Cantwell and walking coach

Banbury man to celebrate Queen’s birthday at Patron Lunch.

A blind veteran from Banbury who will be doing a 100km charity walk has been invited to a special lunch to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.

John Cantwell, 68, will be representing Blind Veterans UK at the Patron’s Lunch on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace on June 12. The lunch recognises the 600 organisations that hold the Queen’s patronage.

John joined the Royal Air Force in 1970 where he was part of the Motor Transport Service Section (MTSS). He met his wife Elaine while he was stationed in Cyprus where she was an RAF nurse. John left the RAF in 1980.

John 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.”

John suffers from a genetic skin disease called keratosis pilaris. He says the disease never troubled him, however a side effect was that he gradually lost his sight.

John 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.”

John was told about Blind Veterans UK in 2010, he said: “When you lose your sight you’re in a shell and you do not realise what you can do.

“Blind Veterans UK showed me what was possible and now I do a full range of activities including skiing, cycling and archery.

“I have also had IT training and my wife and I organise a local Blind Veterans UK lunch club.

“The social element is so important and it’s great to have that camaraderie again.”

John and Elaine are looking forward to celebrating the Queen’s birthday with other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK.

The Mall in St James’ Park will be transformed for its largest ever street party to celebrate The Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities and organisations.

John says: “My wife and I were lucky enough to meet the Countess of Wessex recently when we were invited for tea with a fellow blind veteran who had made her a bird box for her garden.

“Neither of us have ever met The Queen though.”

A week later John will walk 100 kilometres in 24 hours to raise money for Blind Veterans UK. At 68, he will be the oldest walker.

To sponsor him visit