Falkland’s blind veteran from Soham makes emotional return trip for the first time in 36 years
PUBLISHED: 16:11 13 November 2018
A blind veteran from Soham has returned to the Falkland Islands on the largest RAF aircraft for the first time in 36 years since the war ended in 1982.
David Atkinson, 64, joined the Royal Navy in 1972 and in 1982 he was mobilised aboard HMS Endurance during the Falklands conflict.
He was later selected for service aboard Royal Yacht Britannia but retired in 1991 due to his sight loss.
David presented Nigel Phillips CBE, governor of the Falkland Islands, with a Blind Veterans UK tie at Government House and laid a wreath at the 1982 Liberation Memorial.
As a recipient of the South Atlantic Medal, David took advantage of concessionary flights and travelled by Voyager, the largest RAF aircraft, on the ‘air bridge’ between RAF Brize Norton and the Falklands.
David was accompanied on the trip by guide Phil Drury, also from Soham. Phil served with David on HMS Endurance during the Falklands conflict.
During the trip they stayed at Liberty Lodge in Port Stanley and visited a number of the battlefields including Port Fitzroy, Goose Green and Two Sisters Mountain.
David said: “I wanted to go back to pay my respects and see how things had changed. It was a very emotional trip and an honour to remember those that fell in battle. It was important for me to see not only the graves of our lads but also the Argentine cemetery as well.”
He continued: “It was great to meet the governor at Government House and enjoy tea and sticky buns together.
“My thanks go to Blind Veterans UK and the Falklands Veterans Foundation for helping to make this trip happen.”
David first noticed his sight deteriorating aboard HMY Britannia in 1985. He was later diagnosed with macular degeneration and by 1991 it meant he had to leave the Navy behind.
Fortunately, he found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity in 2013.
David said: “The support that Blind Veterans UK has given me from day one has been second to none. At my introductory week in June I had training and received equipment that has enabled me to do everyday tasks that were otherwise impossible before.
“Since then I’ve been attending the monthly lunch clubs at Girton College in Cambridge where I’ve met lots of vision-impaired veterans with similar experiences to my own.”
“The local staff are absolutely fantastic, always full of information and eager to get you up and running with new equipment or arranging exciting events relating to your personal hobbies and interests.”
“I was a keen canoer before my sight loss and so having to quit my hobby as well as my job meant that I really missed my seafaring escapades.
“Blind Veterans UK gave me the first opportunity to get back out on the water since then with a sailing taster day in Suffolk, which was absolutely fantastic.”
Blind Veterans UK helps vision-impaired ex-service men and women of every generation rebuild their lives after sight loss.
Since 1915 the charity has provided rehabilitation, training, practical advice and emotional support to tens of thousands of blind veterans.