Derbyshire blind veteran celebrates very special Christmas with new friends

A blind veteran from Derbyshire spent the festive period with other vision-impaired ex-service men and women at the Blind Veterans UK’s centre in Wales.

Thursday, 26th December 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Monday, 30th December 2019, 11:25 am

Every year the charity invites beneficiaries, like Audrie Chaplin, 84, from Matlock, who would otherwise be alone at Christmas, to spend the week at one of its training and rehabilitation centres.

Born in 1935 and brought up in Baslow, Audrie joined the Royal Air Force in 1953 and, after serving in the UK mainly in signals, including time at Bletchley Park, she was discharged as a Leading Aircraftwomen (LACW) in 1955.

Audrie lost her sight much later in life due to age-related macular degeneration and has described how hard that was for her.

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She said: “I’d say I was devastated when my sight started to get really bad. It’s very true that vision problems really do cut you off from the world and can leave you feeling isolated.

“Faces are just a blur now and there are lots of things that I used to be comfortable with that I no longer am.”

Audrie started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2018 after being told about the charity by Derbyshire Sight Support. She described them as “taking her into a new world”.

She added: “I remember being invited for a free introduction week to learn about all the different things Blind Veterans UK could do for me and just walking into the building for the first time felt like a great big warm hug.”

She has been given training and equipment to allow her to adapt to her sight loss and continue to live independently.

She said: “The best thing I have been given is my special adapted tablet computer. I’m not sure what I’d do without it now.”

Unfortunately, Audrie’s husband passed away almost 15 years ago but she looked forward to spending Christmas with the friends she made through Blind Veterans UK.

She said: “If it wasn’t for Blind Veterans UK I’d have spent Christmas alone. I just feel like I have this whole new family really. It’s not just at Christmas too. I don’t feel alone anymore.

“I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Blind Veterans UK and wish them all a happy and joyous New Year. I know mine will be.”