Soham veteran David Atkinson invited to join centenary celebrations of Blind Veterans UK at Westminster Abbey
PUBLISHED: 10:04 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:04 29 September 2015
A blind veteran from Soham will celebrate the centenary of a military charity that's close to his heart at a special service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey next week.
David Atkinson, 61, will be attending the service, which takes place on Tuesday October 6, along with 1,800 other veterans, staff and supporters of Blind Veterans UK.
The event will mark the military charity’s 100 years of proud service and support to blind and vision-impaired ex-service men and women.
David joined the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes canteen service in 1972 and served afloat with the Royal Navy in HM ships Tiger, Sheffield, London and Eskimo.
In 1982 while serving in the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance he was mobilised in the rank of petty officer for the period of the Falklands conflict and served on board until the end of the war.
He was then selected for service on the Royal Yacht Britannia as NAAFI canteen manager where he worked until his retirement in 1991.
David said: “I’m so grateful for all of my years in service.
“On the Royal Yacht I circumnavigated the world at least two times and had some amazing experiences.
“It was while I was serving there that I began to lose my sight. Initially I could get by but in the end it meant I had to retire.”
David started receiving help and support from Blind Veterans UK in 2013 and suffers from macular degeneration.
He added: “I lost my sight at a relatively young age which I think is lucky in a way. It’s given me time to adapt and find ways to cope.
“I used to be president of Teesside Society for the Blind and was referring ex-service men and women to Blind Veterans UK quite regularly. I thought that I really should join the ranks.
“I can’t wait to visit the charity’s centres and get more involved with the activities they offer.”
He and his wife Ria say they are looking forward to the upcoming celebratory event.
He added: “I’ve never been to Westminster Abbey before so it will be a very special day.
“Blind Veterans UK has a great history and I know they’re now helping more people than ever before but there are still people out there who could be getting help.”
Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War I. The organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War II to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
Visit www.blindveterans.org.uk for more information.