Two blind veterans, aged 75 and 90, will celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together after they met through national military charity Blind Veterans UK…

Pat Mason, 75 and from Frome, met Harry Hitch, 90 and from Aylesbury, at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton, East Sussex, last summer.

Both Pat and Harry have been recently widowed and receive free specialist support from the charity. Harry lost his wife nearly five years ago after more than 60 years of marriage.

Pat says: “Harry and I speak the same language. Since we met in June we have spoken on the phone every day and we’ve had so many fun times together. He’s got such a great sense of humour and incredible stories to tell.”

Harry says: “Pat is a very special person in my eyes. I feel fortunate that at 90 years old I have met someone like her.”

Pat served in the Women’s Royal Army Corps from 1961 – 1962 as an ambulance driver. She left the Armed Forces to marry an Army Sergeant and was discharged as a Private. She later joined the Army Reserves for three years and was discharged as a Lance Corporal.

Pat says: “I wanted to learn to drive so my dad jokingly said that I could join the Army if I was determined to learn. He was very surprised when I took up his advice and passed all the exams! The only thing the Army wouldn’t let me drive was a tank.

“I enjoyed my time in the Army and the Reserves. I miss the camaraderie and the people the most. You get to know women from all over the country and you look out for each other. The training stays with you for a long time. I still stand at ease when I am at the bus stop.”

In 1946 Harry joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) for National Service and served for two years as an aircraft mechanic at White Waltham. During the Second World War he was exempt from active duty because he had been doing a motor mechanic apprenticeship.

Harry says: “I worked on all sorts of aircraft during my time in the Armed Forces including a couple of spitfires. The pilots would come to HQ to practice flying the planes and we flew with them a lot. Life at the camp was exciting and I loved what I was doing. I learned so much from my time in the RAF that I have carried with me all my life.”

Harry was discharged from the RAF in 1948 as an Aircraftman. It was years later when Harry’s sight started to deteriorate due to age-related macular degeneration, leaving him with very little sight in one eye.

Then Harry had more bad luck when suddenly a blocked blood vessel in the retina of his other eye robbed him of the rest of his sight. He was registered severely sight-impaired (blind) in 2014.

Seven years ago, Pat’s sight also started to deteriorate because of age-related macular degeneration. She was registered sight-impaired (partially-sighted) in 2014. Fortunately both veterans were signposted to Blind Veterans UK, with Pat starting to receive support in 2015 and Harry in 2014.

Harry says: “When I lost my sight it was sudden and I did find it really difficult. But lucky for me, I discovered Blind Veterans UK and they have showed me that you can still have a life even if you are blind.”

Pat says: “I used to enjoy painting but that just became too difficult when I couldn’t see clearly anymore. It was really hard but Blind Veterans UK is wonderful. The charity taught me how to paint again. At the charity’s Brighton centre I learned how to use acrylics and, using what little sight I’ve got, I was able to paint some pictures for my children.”

It was in June 2016 that Pat met Harry Hitch at the charity’s Brighton centre where they were both staying for a week. They sat down together and started talking and soon realised that they had a lot to talk about.

Harry says: “When Pat and I first met we ended up spending the whole day chatting. Time just disappeared we had so much to say. When we realised what time it was and we were about to go our separate ways I asked if she could bring me a Horlicks to my room. She wondered what I was up to but all I wanted was a cup of Horlicks because I can’t make one on my own!”

Pat says: “Harry is amazing. For his age and his sight loss, he can do so much. It is inspiring to spend time with him and he gives others the confidence to give things a go. We always enjoy our time together. It’s lovely for both of us.”

As well as support from the centres, Blind Veterans UK have given Harry and Pat free specialist technology to help them to cope with sight loss. Pat has received a specially-adapted telephone, magnifying lenses and a CCTV reader, so that she can read her own documents again.

Harry says: “Pat and I look after each other. We’ve been on trips together and with the sight we’ve got between us we make the best of it. Pat is such a lovely lady and I admire everything she has done.”

Pat says: “I cannot praise Blind Veterans UK enough. They’ve given me amazing equipment and through them I was able to meet Harry. We will be going to the Brighton centre again this month for a holiday together and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss.

The charity estimates that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or