HMS Sultan hosts sports day for blind veterans

Yvonne Rixon, bowling at the 'bBlind veterans sports day at HMS Sultan. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (151252-045)
Yvonne Rixon, bowling at the 'bBlind veterans sports day at HMS Sultan. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (151252-045)

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Blind and visually impaired veterans from across the UK recently took part in a sports day as part of an annual summer camp at HMS Sultan.

The veterans gathered in Gosport for a week of activities designed to challenge stereotypes and encourage those who suffer from sight loss to make the most of every opportunity life brings.

It’s amazing how they get around their disabilities to complete the activities and most of us wouldn’t even realise that they were blind.

Commander Sophie Shaughnessy, executive officer of HMS Sultan

Basketball, hockey, fishing, gliding and archery were among the sports on offer.

Nigel Whiteley, 69, is a former fleet air arm field gunner who first supported the summer camp in 1972.

Nigel’s sight started to deteriorate after he contracted a tropical disease in the 1980s while serving in Lebanon with 846 Naval Air Squadron.

He is now one of the blind veterans who benefits from attending the camp.

He said: ‘I have been coming here for 15 years now and events like this are very important to all of us, it gives us all an opportunity to get together and enjoy ourselves alongside serving Servicemen.

‘It’s an opportunity for some of our new veterans to come alongside and see how the Navy works.

‘The best thing is the sense of fun and it helps with the rehabilitation as, although some of the veterans might only have just joined, they may have been blind for several years.’

This year Blind Veterans UK completes 100 years of helping men and women discover life after sight loss.

The charity’s chairman, Tim Davis, said: ‘I think these sorts of weeks are very good as they help individuals to meet others and build friendships. One of the challenges of being a blind veteran is that it can be quite a lonely existence.

‘I have met a number of people, both men and women, from across the country who have met at this event and formed firm friendships.’

Commander Sophie Shaughnessy, executive officer of HMS Sultan, said: ‘The establishment has been hosting the veterans since 1996 and it’s fantastic to welcome them here once more as the charity celebrates their 100th anniversary.

‘It’s amazing how they get around their disabilities to complete the activities and most of us wouldn’t even realise that they were blind.’