Blind war hero set for Buckingham Palace reception
A blind RAF veteran who took part in dangerous night-time missions in the 1950s will be greeted by Sophie, Countess of Wessex at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.
Frank Alman, 82, from Winslow, will be visiting the palace with more than 1,000 other ex-servicemen and women helped by Blind Veterans UK.
The event is being hosted to mark the military charity’s 100 years of service and support to blind and visually-impaired former service personnel.
Mr Alman served in the Royal Air Force from 1952 until 1956 where he worked as a Night Fighter Navigator defending British air space against potential enemies looking for weaknesses.
He left the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant.
Mr Akman said: “Being a Night Fighter Navigator was one of the most dangerous jobs as three out of four were killed within two years.
“This was because you had to fly back after reaching your target without radar because the electrics would often break down.
“It was quite an exciting job.”
The job was also dangerous because of the set-up of the aircraft which was not very technologically advanced and because the planes often had to navigate back to the base with very little light.
Mr Alman first noticed he was starting to lose his sight in 2013 and was later diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (ARMD).
He started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK later that year and has since received specialist equipment and training including a magnifier, from the charity.
Mr Alman added: “Blind Veterans UK has given me great advice and useful stuff for my everyday life.
“The centre is wonderful as well, both veterans and staff are friendly and great company.”
Mr Alman and his son Stewart will be joining other veterans at the garden party at the palace tomorrow (Thursday).
He says: “My son was dead set on going with me and we’re both looking forward to celebrating Blind Veterans UK’s 100th birthday.”
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 the First World War.
The organisation has since gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War 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 visually impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General Nick Caplin CB 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 be 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.”
Visit www.blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity’s history and how to support it.