Blind Sunderland veteran invited to London to celebrate with the Queen

Dennis and daughter Sue.
Dennis and daughter Sue.
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A blind veteran from Sunderland had a prime spot for a right Royal celebration.

Dennis Taylor, 90. from Tunstall celebrated the 90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen on Sunday at the Patron’s Lunch together with other veterans supported by Blind Veterans UK.

The lunch took place on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace and was being held to recognise the more than 600 organisations that hold The Queen’s patronage.

Dennis and his daughter Sue were invited to represent Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-service men and women, which has had The Queen as its patron throughout her reign.

Dennis joined the Royal Navy in 1942 and, after training at HMS Collingwood, he served with Motor Torpedo Boats on a motor launch. Discharged as a Leading Telegraphist in 1946 he then went on to qualify and work as a music teacher.

Dennis said: “I entered the Navy at 17 as a boy telegraphist and ended up serving for three years in Mombasa as well as spending time in South Africa.”

Dennis suffers from age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of sight loss in older people. He began to lose his sight 10 years ago.

He said: “I visited my optician who asked if I was still driving. I told him that I was and he said that I should really think about stopping. My sight has deteriorated ever since. The worst thing about losing my sight is that, although I can still play the piano by ear, I can’t conduct anymore.”

Dennis was referred to Blind Veterans UK by the Sunderland Eye Infirmary last year and he started to receive free and comprehensive support from the charity straight away.

“I didn’t know that I was eligible for help from Blind Veterans UK and I’m so pleased that they put me in touch,” he said.

“I’d lost my confidence through losing my sight but visiting the charity’s training centre in Sheffield for an introduction week changed all that. Realising you can still do things helps to bring that confidence back.

“Blind Veterans UK has given me so much useful equipment that I use every day. I’ve recently received a huge magnifier that allows me to still read my newspapers and letters and I use a smaller version to allow me to keep composing.”

The Mall in St James’s Park was transformed for its largest ever street party to celebrate The Queen’s patronage of more than 600 charities and organisations.

Dennis said: “I couldn’t believe it when I walked out there and saw all those tables. It’s amazing how they put together the Patron’s Lunch and fit 10,000 people on the Mall. Especially considering they couldn’t start setting things up until Trooping of Colour finished the day before.

“I met a few of the Royal Family, my sister phoned up the day after to tell me she was me on the telly with Lady Louise. The parade after was good and the bands especially interested me as a musician.

“The weather was miserable in the morning but you can’t do anything about it though we didn’t let it spoil things or dampen our spirits and everyone got on with celebrating the Queen’s birthday. When the sun did come out, it made all the difference.

“I am very grateful for being able to go to the Patron’s Lunch with Blind Veterans UK. I’m so grateful for everything they do for me, it makes a huge difference in my life.”

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

•If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help them discover a life beyond sight loss by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting noonealone.org.uk.