Daventry veteran celebrates charity’s 100th birthday at Buckingham Palace

Peter Rolfe and his daughter Susan at the garden party
Peter Rolfe and his daughter Susan at the garden party

A blind veteran from Daventry the centenary of a charity at a special Buckingham Palace Garden party.

Peter Rolfe, 72, visited the palace with more than 1,000 other veterans helped by Blind Veterans UK, to mark the military charity’s 100 years of support to blind and vision-impaired ex-service men and women.

Peter joined the Army Catering Corps in 1963 and served as a chef with the Corps of Royal Engineers in the Emirate of Sharjah, Kenya and the UK. His jobs included being a hospital chef at military hospitals. He was discharged as a Corporal in 1972.

Peter lost his sight due to a blockage of a blood vessel during a coronary bypass operation in 1977, which led to a stroke that paralysed his left side, affected his speech and memory. He lost most of his sight and his eyesight further deteriorated with age. He had to retire due to his failing sight in 1992, aged 49.

Peter said: “Everything was red or green when I woke up from the anaesthetic. It was scary and it carried on for three months, before I regained some ordinary colour.

“I couldn’t drive. I had to rely on my wife and others to ferry me about and take me places.”

Peter has received help from Blind Veterans UK, including a message stick to take voice memos and kitchen equipment like a non-slip mat and a grater. The grater is blue and the mat is red to make it easier to distinguish between the two. He has received audio software for his laptop and visited the charity’s Sheffield Centre for computer training.

Peter said: “I had no idea how to work computers before, but now I’ve had some software and training, which is all I needed. Now I can send email messages instead of relying on other people.”

Peter also goes to the charity’s Brighton Centre for a fortnight each year to play bowls with other veterans.

Peter and his daughter Susan Lee joined others supported by Blind Veterans UK at the special garden party at Buckingham Palace last Thursday.

Peter said: “It’s amazing to think that Blind Veterans UK has lasted for a century and that Sir Arthur Pearson had such great foresight as to found the charity and think of what he could do for people.

“I really enjoyed celebrating the charity’s centenary at Buckingham Palace. I managed to meet up with quite a few people from the bowling club and have a few sandwiches. All in all it was a lovely day and I felt very fortunate I could share this day with my daughter.”

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. But 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.

Chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, says: “All of us at Blind Veterans UK feel both honoured and very proud to celebrate our centenary at such a special event. It was a fantastic day for our veterans!

“This anniversary also provides the opportunity for us to look forward to the challenges that lie ahead for Blind Veterans UK. It is a critical time for our charity as the number of blind veterans we support is increasing; in the past year, more blind veterans have registered for our help than ever before in the charity’s history and this trend is set to continue.”