A veteran from Alresford is celebrating a ‘special connection’ she has found with another veteran through a national military charity.
Betty Tring,90, from Alresford met Fred Few, 91 from Reading, at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton last July.
Both Betty and Fred have been widowed and received free specialist support from the charity.
Betty says: “Fred is such a caring person. I can’t really put into words what it means to me, to have that kind of connection with someone at my age. We talk all the time and I feel like I can really share with him.”
Betty served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) during the Second World War from 1944 – 1946. After she left the WAAF Betty then married Phillip who served in the Royal Air Force.
Betty said:“I was only 18 when I joined the WAAF and it was an incredible experience. I served during wartime so I remember the smog and the blackouts. I met so many interesting people in the Armed Forces – including my husband!”
It was years later that Betty’s sight started to deteriorate due to age-related macular degeneration. Then six years ago, Betty’s sight got much worse and she was registered sight impaired in 2011.
Betty already knew about Blind Veterans UK from her days in the WAAF but she decided to contact the charity after meeting a fellow veteran who was receiving their support at a local blind association meeting in Winchester. She started to receive free support from the charity in 2012.
It was in July 2016 that Betty met Fred Few. Fred was only 17 in 1942, when he volunteered for the RAF, but he lied about his age because he wanted to fight in the Second World War. Within a few weeks he was accepted. Fred worked in airfield construction and was discharged as a Corporal in January 1947.
Four years ago, Fred’s sight suddenly disappeared due to a stroke. Fortunately through a mutual friend Fred met a Navy veteran who was also blind. He referred Fred to Blind Veterans UK and Fred has been receiving the charity’s free specialist support since August 2015.
Before she started to receive support, Betty had not been on holiday for eight years because she had been caring for her late husband. Thanks to Blind Veterans UK she has been able to visit the charity’s training centre in Brighton to get a well-earned break.
Betty says: “My life has been completely transformed by Blind Veterans UK. They have opened so many doors for me. Then last summer I met Fred. I was staying at the charity’s Brighton centre for a week with some other ladies and I knew that he was there on his own.
“I encouraged him to join us and we just clicked. I saw him every day after that and it was so lovely. On the day when he was leaving he asked if he could email me and we’ve been in contact since. At my age, I never expected to have that kind of connection with someone again.”
As well as teaching Fred and Betty how to use a computer so that they can email each other, both have received free technology to help them to cope with sight loss. Betty has been given a synaptic tablet and specially adapted phone.
Fred says: “Betty and I are both blind so we have never seen what the other person looks like. But even though we can’t see each other, when we are together it’s like magic. There really is this special connection between us.”
Betty says: “I would never have been able to keep in touch with Fred without the help of Blind Veterans UK. We’ll be going away to Weston-Super-Mare in February and it will be an opportunity to spend some time together. Fred is a good and clever man, I feel like I have known him forever. We are very lucky. ”
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 1246 blind veterans in Hampshire 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 visiting noonealone.org.uk.