Military charity Blind Veterans UK latest to join campaign to celebrate D-Day hero's 100th birthday

A MILITARY charity has backed a plea calling on people to send birthday cards to a blind D-Day veteran celebrating his 100th birthday in isolation.

By Tom Cotterill
Saturday, 6th June 2020, 4:52 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th June 2020, 4:24 pm
D-Day veteran Ron Cross MBE (99) from Alverstoke, will be raising a glass to those he served alongside in WWII.

Picture: Sarah Standing (070520-1444)
D-Day veteran Ron Cross MBE (99) from Alverstoke, will be raising a glass to those he served alongside in WWII. Picture: Sarah Standing (070520-1444)

Heroic Ron Cross will reach the milestone birthday on Monday – two days after the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The 99-year-old, who lives in Alverstoke, earned France’s highest medal for valour, the Legion d’Honneur for his role in the invasion.

He was supposed to have a huge party to celebrate turning a century but the coronavirus pandemic scuppered all the plans.

To brighten his spirits, his granddaughter Amy Cross launched a campaign calling on the community to send the war hero cards for his birthday.

And the effort has since been backed by community groups, residents and even Gosport’s MP, Caroline Dinenage.

Now, Blind Veterans UK – which has cared for Ron since 2012 after his sight deteriorated in 2009 – has now joined the roster of supporters.

Amy said: ‘We can’t have the 100th birthday party that we’d imagined for my wonderful grandad so I wanted to do something to make him feel less lonely as he celebrates in isolation.

Ron served in the 79th Armoured Division, a specialist unit created specifically to form the first line of attack as part of the Allied invasion force.

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As part of the Armoured Vehicles Royal Engineers, Ron and his fellow engineers were responsible for landing tanks and clearing minefields set by the Germans before reinforcements arrived.

He was discharged as a Corporal in 1946, after which he returned to Gosport to work at Haslar Hospital as an occupational therapist for 37 years - a career which would see him receive an MBE.

Ron’s vision started to deteriorate in 2009 and he was later diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration.

He said: ‘Blind Veterans UK are marvellous. Three years ago I couldn’t write a letter anymore because my sight had got so bad.

‘But I went on a Blind Veterans UK IT course and they have given me all the training and equipment I need to carry on. I have a special screen that magnifies what I write and software that reads it back to me.

‘I can now send emails which is so important for keeping in touch with people like my grandchildren.’

Amy added: ‘Blind Veterans UK gave my grandad a computer which speaks to him so he can use it despite not being able to see much. I love telling people that my 99 year old grandad sends me emails, I’m so proud of him.’

Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90 per cent of whom are over 70 and thus being advised by the government to self-isolate.

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK director of operations said: ‘Having to self-isolate, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.’

Birthday cards should be posted to Caroline Dinenage MP’s office at 167 Stoke Road, Gosport, PO12 1SE.

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