A blind war veteran left his house for the first time in 10 months to receive a surprise birthday present of a refurbished memorial bench dedicated to his late wife.
Jim Sherratt, 87, from Nantwich, Cheshire, became the first guest at military charity Blind Veterans UK’s rehabilitation centre in Llandudno since it closed its doors in March.
When his wife, Ivy, died in 2011 he celebrated her life by dedicating a bench to her memory on Llandudno Pier, but its condition had deteriorated in recent years after being exposed to the elements.
Staff at the centre decided to surprise Mr Sherratt by restoring the bench and marking its restoration, as it is split into zones to make it Covid-safe for guests and staff alike.
Mr Sherratt joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps for National Service in 1952 and served in the UK, mainly as an Armourer, until discharge as a Private in 1954.
He lost his sight later in life due to diabetic maculopathy and has been receiving assistance from Blind Veterans UK since 2014.
He has no vision in his left eye, just 1% in his right eye, and also experiences severe mobility issues.
He said: “It’s been an extremely difficult and testing time. Being stuck in one room of your house for months on end is not much fun as you can probably imagine. I spent the time sat in my chair listening to the radio.
“Blind Veterans UK kept in touch all the way through. They were absolutely fantastic.
“I had a call every Thursday with five or six other blind veterans in my area which I always looked forward to. We heard what we’d all been up to during lockdown and had a great laugh together.
“But once again Blind Veterans UK stepped in and provided me with a reading machine, which takes a photo of the text and reads it out. It’s brilliant and saved me on countless occasions this year.
“I’ve been looking forward for months to coming back here. It’s feels great to be back in this amazing place with such caring staff.”
Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK director of operations, said: “Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time.
“So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.
“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”
For more information on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Covid-19 visit blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus