Blind South Tyneside veteran to march on Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday events

Colin Williamson, president of Blind Veterans UK.
Colin Williamson, president of Blind Veterans UK.

A blind veteran is set to play his part in Remembrance Sunday events at London's Cenotaph.

Colin Williamson, 61, and from Hebburn, will be marching as part of his role as Blind Veterans UK president on Sunday, November 11.

He will join more than 100 other blind veterans supported by the national charity, which helps vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women.

This year the commemorations are particularly significant as the nation marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Colin, of Mons Avenue, said: “At the end of the First World War there was hardly a family in the UK that wasn’t affected by the conflict so we must never forget their suffering and loss and obviously the thousands of brave young men from all around the Commonwealth who gave their all for the freedoms that we enjoy today.

"We must always remember them.”

Colin joined the Army Junior Leaders at the age of 15 in 1972.

At 17 he joined the 25th Regiment of the Royal Artillery and was stationed in Munsterlager in Northern Germany.

During his time here he completed two tours of Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s.

As a Gunner, his job was a driver and signaller.

In 1977 he transferred to the Territorial Army, where he served for six years, leaving service in 1983.

Colin went on to have a longstanding career as a field engineer with BT.

However, Colin’s life drastically changed in 2003 when an unprovoked street attack left him with several skull fractures and dramatically affected his vision.

He lost the sight in his right eye and then over the following year the central vision in his left eye deteriorated.

Later in 2003, Colin found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity.

He said: “My first visit to the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation centre in Brighton made me realise that I wasn’t alone and I could still have an active life.

“Blind Veterans UK has been brilliant – they’ve given me and my family tons of support, in every aspect of our lives, things like equipment at home, training on the computer and emotional support.

“Blind Veterans UK is a fantastic organisation which has helped me and thousands of my fellow service men and women to continue to enjoy life and has provided me with so many opportunities and adventures.”

In 2017, Colin was named President of Blind Veterans UK becoming only the sixth president in the charity’s 103 year history.

He added: “I feel really privileged and fortunate to be part of such a splendid charity, and to now be President of Blind Veterans UK is an absolute honour.

“Marching at the Cenotaph means a lot to me as I feel that I’m there not only to represent Blind Veterans UK but also my former regiment and those members of both organisations who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Blind Veterans UK was founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War.

The charity has a dedicated community team in Tyne and Wear who provide support including training, equipment and social events.

In October members of the organisation unveiled a bronze statue of seven blinded First World War soldiers outside Manchester Piccadilly station.

It is the only permanent memorial in the UK marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB said: “Remembrance Sunday is a very poignant time for our blind veterans as we reflect on the sacrifice and service of all members of the Armed Forces.”

“Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 in response to the more than 3,000 veterans who were blinded as a result of the First World War.

"Today we support more blind veterans than ever before in our history, providing them with the support and training to rebuild their lives after sight loss.”