Welwyn Garden City blind veteran to march on Remembrance Sunday with charity that 'dragged him out of darkness'
PUBLISHED: 16:53 01 November 2019
A blind veteran from Welwyn Garden City is set to march at the Cenotaph in London this Remembrance Sunday with the charity Blind Veterans UK.
Ralph Dines, 84, will be joining the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations on November 10 with more than 100 other blind veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women.
Ralph joined the Royal Signals aged 18 and spent two years at Catterick in Yorkshire - six months as a wireless operator and 18 months as an instructor in basic weapons training.
He left the army as a corporal in 1955, and said: "I look back on those times fondly as I made lovely friends and I got a lot of experience in how to look after myself."
He lost his sight much later in life due to glaucoma: "I was devastated when told I was losing my sight. I had my own business and had been driving for 56 years all over Europe. It was all over right then.
"It was particularly hard in 2013 because my sight became a lot worse at the same time as my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
"The next two years were two years of struggling. I only have about five per cent vision left now and that little bit is just in the periphery so I can't look back at my own face in the mirror."
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Blind Veterans UK has been supporting Ralph since 2016, providing him with equipment to make his day-to-day life at home easier and adaptations to allow him to adjust to his sight loss.
Ralph added: "I can't say how much of a difference Blind Veterans UK has made to me. All my family say that I'm a different person now.
"I use the talking microwave Blind Veterans UK gave me every day. They also gave me a special magnifier that can blow up documents to a huge size."
Ralph says the biggest impact the charity has had on him is on his mental health. He said: "I was in a deep dark place after losing my sight and my wife had passed away but Blind Veterans UK dragged me out."
Ralph will be marching with 100 other blind veterans at the Cenotaph.
He added: "It is absolutely fantastic. The crowd is eight or 10 deep and when they start cheering and clapping you feel 10 feet tall, and that's with me sitting in a wheelchair!"
"It just makes you feel hugely proud, especially to be marching with my fellow blind veterans."
Blind Veterans UK was founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War. Now, the charity supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.
Visit blindveterans.org.uk to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.