Blind veterans compete in HMS Sultan summer camp sports day

BLIND veterans from across the country are enjoying a week of exciting activities at HMS Sultan.

Monday, 5th August 2019, 4:48 pm
Updated Monday, 5th August 2019, 5:46 pm
Blind veterans from across the UK took part in a Sports Day as part of an exciting programme of activities on offer at the HMS Sultan Blind Veterans UK Summer Camp, on Monday, August 5. Pictured is: Richard Cruice attempts bucket ball. Picture: Sarah Standing (050819-2546)

An annual Blind Veterans UK summer camp which has been running for 60 years has returned to the base, with 14 people taking part.

Basketball, hockey and penalty taking were among the activities to kick off the week, with the group heading for a trip to the Isle of Wight tomorrow.

Martyn Webb, from Gosport, is an ex-Field Gun physical training instructor and helped co-ordinate the sports day event.

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Leslie Simpson playing hockey. Picture: Sarah Standing (050819-2560)

Martyn said: ‘I can see and I’m just grateful for that. It’s so worthwhile and they’re great guys.

‘They all come for the banter, the jokes and the mickey-taking, it’s all good fun.’

Traditionally supported by Fleet Air Arm Field Gun crew, the Blind Veterans UK summer camp has been hosted by HMS Sultan since 1996 after HMS Daedalus closed.

Andy Salter from Fareham spent 22 years in the Royal Navy, and took over running the camp three years ago.

Kevin Beahan (88) taking a penalty shot. Picture: Sarah Standing (050819-2519)

He said: ‘It’s the highlight of my year, it’s probably on a par with Christmas. To bring people like this back into the services environment, the inescapable humour and banter they bring.

‘To see them in this environment, the years are suddenly wound back. They leave their troubles by the gate.’

Veteran John Finlay has been attending camps for three years, and said it is nice to catch up with people as well as meeting new faces.

One newcomer to this year’s camp is Richard Cruice, who travelled to Gosport from Manchester.

Richard served with the Grenadier Guards, then left and worked as a gas engineer before he started getting problems with his eyes.

After finding out he had macular dystrophy, a rare genetic eye disorder, Richard got in touch with Blind Veterans UK and is now a regional representative for the charity.

He said: ‘It’s like going back to the army, you meet all your mates and they all have the same spirit as you. You have that comradeship again.

‘Without Blind Veterans UK I don’t think I would have done anything with my life.’

The camp will culminate in a prize-giving ceremony at HMS Sultan on Thursday, recognising the week’s achievements.