A blind veteran from Grantham, who would have been alone this Christmas, is looking forward to celebrating it with military charity Blind Veterans UK…

Annie Norris, 87, will celebrate the festive period with other vision-impaired ex-Service men and women supported by Blind Veterans UK. Annie will be visiting the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton over Christmas.

Annie says: “It will be fantastic to spend Christmas with Blind Veterans UK. My children live all over the world so it takes a weight off their shoulders to know that I won’t be on my own. I have lots of friends who will be at the centre too and it will be so nice to see them again.”

Annie joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1947 and as she had been a nanny before her Service, her main responsibility was caring for the Commanding Officer’s (CO) children. She served at Wilmslow, Kinloss and Oxford and was discharged as a Senior Aircraft Woman in 1949.

Annie says: “I enjoyed my time in the WAAF. I joined because I was interested in training to be a nurse. I’d always wanted to work with children and it was pure luck that I ended up taking care of the CO’s children. They made me feel like one of the family.”

It was years later, in 2006, that Annie started to lose her sight to age-related macular degeneration.

Annie says: “Something was wrong with my eyes for a while but I didn’t clock it. One day I looked at my son and I realised that I could only see him through one of my eyes. It was quite a shock.”

Annie went to the hospital and was told that though she would lose her sight in one eye, her other eye should not get worse. However, six months later, she was registered blind.

Annie found out about Blind Veterans UK when she was visited by a representative from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). He asked Annie if she had ever served and put her in contact with the charity.

Annie says: “Before Blind Veterans UK I was feeling really down. I wasn’t feeling very motivated but then my new Welfare Officer knocked on my door. I welcomed her in and it was like she brought the sunshine in with her. She told me what the charity could help me with and just like that, my whole life changed.”

Annie has been given specially adapted equipment to help her to cope with her sight loss. As well as free equipment, Annie has also been given training in how to use a computer and a phone designed for people with a vision-impairment.

Every year Blind Veterans UK invites ex-Service men and women who are at risk of being alone for Christmas to spend the week at one of the charity’s training and rehabilitation centres.

Annie says: “Everyone at the Blind Veterans UK centre in Brighton is so friendly. You can’t be lonely at Christmas because there’s always so much to do there and new veterans to meet. There’s never a dull moment. I feel lucky to be able to spend my Christmas with them.”

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 are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting www.noonealone.org.uk