RAF veteran heads to Palace for centenary

Banbury resident George Haigh will attend a special garden party at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to celebrate Blind Veterans UK's 100th birthday. NNL-150306-110343001
Banbury resident George Haigh will attend a special garden party at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to celebrate Blind Veterans UK's 100th birthday. NNL-150306-110343001

A blind veteran from Banbury who received support from Blind Veterans UK is at Buckingham Palace yesterday (Thursday) to celebrate the charity’s centenary.

George Haigh, 99, was a professional footballer for Stockport County before joining the Royal Air Force in 1940.

George Haigh (centre) pictured during his service in the Royal Air Force. He will attend a special garden party at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to celebrate Blind Veterans UK's 100th birthday. NNL-150306-110330001

George Haigh (centre) pictured during his service in the Royal Air Force. He will attend a special garden party at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to celebrate Blind Veterans UK's 100th birthday. NNL-150306-110330001

During his time he served as a physical training instructor and was stationed at RAF Morecambe and RAF Wilmslow, where he trained new recruits and parachutists.

After being discharged as a sergeant in 1946 he returned to football to manage teams. Mr Haigh first received help from Blind Veterans last year after losing his sight due to the age-related muscular degeneration (ARMD).

He has received equipment from the charity to help him continue to live independently, such as a talking clock and magnifying aids.

He will be heading to Buckingham Palace with his son Anthony and more than 1,000 other veterans to mark 100 years of service and support to blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

Mr Haigh, who will also celebrate his 100th birthday this month, said: “It seemed I lost my sight quite quickly, which had a big impact; suddenly I couldn’t read anything. It’s the smallest changes which have been the most helpful. Even something like sunglasses so I can enjoy going outside again. When I got the invitation I was over the moon. It’s a wonderful thing; I couldn’t have ever imagined it happening to me.”

Blind Veterans UK, formerly St Dunstan’s, was founded in 1915 and its initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War.

But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War and recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It provides free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, said: “All of us at Blind Veterans UK feel both honoured and very proud to celebrate our centenary at such a special event. It will a fantastic day for our veterans, whatever the weather!

“This anniversary also provides the opportunity for us to look forward to the challenges that lie ahead for Blind Veterans UK. It is a critical time for our charity as the number of blind veterans we support is increasing; in the past year, more blind veterans have registered for our help than ever before in the charity’s history and this trend is set to continue.”

For more details visit www.blindveterans.org.uk