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Sailors in the dark for St Dunstan’s
THE CALL has gone out to Service men and per cent) selected emotional; and only 15 per engineer.
women to support the St Dunstan’s Forces cent stated financial. Gerry began to lose his sight and was
Challenge, where Naval folk are asked to set St Dunstan’s recognises the need for a eventually registered blind in January 2002.
themselves a nocturnal or blindfolded challenge holistic approach which embraces financial, He suffers with a condition called extensive
to give them a taste of what life is like for the emotional and practical. bilateral macula oedema with cystic change,
blind. One former Navy man has benefitted from retinal pigment epithelial change and scarring.
Some of the first to take up the challenge the charity’s approach – Gerry Jackson. He has no sight in his left eye and retains
were a team of 11 from the Defence School of Gerry joined the Royal Navy in February only peripheral vision in his right eye. He
Aeronautical Engineering at HMS Sultan, who 1957 and entered training for the Fleet Air became a St Dunstaner in June 2003.
along with other staff from the establishment Arm Radio Electrical Branch. He says of St Dunstan’s: “When I lost my
played a five-a-side football match with a During his time in the Navy he served in sight, I felt isolated and frustrated. I’d always
difference. Naval air stations and on aircraft carriers on been very active and independent and found it
Wearing blacked-out safety spectacles in various second line and front-line squadrons. hard to adjust.
order to simulate total blindness, the teams
In 1959 he became involved with the Fleet “Being put in touch with St Dunstan’s was
used a specially adapted football, enabling
Air Arm Field Gun crew and progressed like a light going on; the practical support
players to track its whereabouts through
through to the final eliminations when a they offered has given me a new lease of life.
training injury caused his withdrawal. Specialist staff worked with me on a one-
Organiser WO Bill Bailey said: “Sultan
He carried out commando training with 42 to-one basis to devise a training programme
already has a special link with St Dunstan’s –
Commando Royal Marines at Bickleigh, being which suited my needs.
we sponsor and host an annual activity camp
awarded a green beret. He then went on to “I worked intensively on orientation and
which enables St Dunstaners to try new and
join a reformed 848 Commando Helicopter mobility as well as other independent living
exciting activities, such as kayaking and deep
Squadron at Worthy Down, which embarked skills. Being trained to use a computer with
sea fishing.
on board HMS Bulwark. confidence has really opened up the world for
“The Forces Challenge was a great way for
Gerry left the regular Navy in 1966 and me; I can get involved in the local community
me and the teams to try to put ourselves in the
carried on a career in civilian life whilst also and stay in touch with friends and family.
shoes of St Dunstaners living with blindness:
serving in the Royal Naval Reserve, until 1984 “St Dunstan’s has also given me a lifetime
it gave a real appreciation of how difficult it is
when he retired as a Chief Petty Officer. loan of a computer and other IT equipment.
to adapt.”
As a civilian Gerry was employed on various The emotional support I receive is second
St Dunstan’s, founded in 1915, offers life-
tasks connected with the military. He was to none, the encouragement from staff and
long support and is a centre of excellence.
responsible for the design and installation of camaraderie with other St Dunstaners has
various training simulators for the Royal Navy, inspired me to achieve more every day.’■ RESEARCH by St Dunstan’s, the national
charity for blind ex-Service men and women, the RAF and Army. Gerry has been a speaker for St Dunstan’s
has shown that practical help is the most valued Gerry then spent time as the design authority for several years, speaking to local groups
support needed by veterans. for the Ptarmigan communications system into and associations and providing them with
Researchers asked St Dunstaners which armoured staff vehicles. During this phase he information about St Dunstan’s work and how
element of assistance provided by the charity was seconded to the Falkland Islands, taking they have supported him.
was the most important – emotional, practical part in the invasion with 42 Commando For further information on the work of
or financial. returning to UK on cessation of hostilities. St Dunstan’s, visit their website online at
Almost half of the people asked (49 per Gerry’s last position before retirement was at or call 020 7723
cent) responded practical; just over a third (36 Orange, the mobile phone giant as a principal 5021.
Diver’s drive
● The RNRMC’s new logo
THE MOVIE character Forrest
patron for
Gump is the inspiration for a
TAKING a group of
3,630 mile run across the USA
servicemen and women,
but this time for charity.
who have all lost a limb or
The event is appropriately
their sight or both, away on
named The Gumpathon and it a dive in the Red Sea off THE Princess Royal was formally
starts in New York on April 1 Egypt, was the brainchild of welcomed as the new patron
and is planned to finish in Los
PO(EW) John Strutt based
of the Royal Navy and Royal
Angeles two months later in
at SCU Leydene, HMS
Marines Charity at a reception in
early June. HMS President, St Katherine’s
It represents a unique
Dock, in London.
challenge: crossing three
The group of 15 individuals were
The Princess Royal, who
deserts, four time zones and
all either serving or ex-military
was promoted Vice Admiral in
ten mountain ranges, with
and they also had in common
November, told the assembled
each man completing 16 miles
that they were all members of
guests she was delighted to
in relay, so over 60 miles per
BLESMA (the British Limbless
become patron of the RNRMC,
day, or the equivalent of 34
Ex Servicemen’s Association)
which had made huge strides
marathons per runner.
based in Essex.
in bringing many of the naval
At present the core team
The original inspiration
charities under its umbrella.
is made up of C/Sgt Damian
came from Nancy MacPherson
“Joining under one charity
Todd, who dreamt it all up,
who runs similar projects for
means much better connections
C/Sgt Brad Keeling, Mne
injured US servicemen via www.
and a quicker route to
Jamie Jobson and Monty Hall,
distributing money to those who
a former Royal Marine turned
John named his project
need it most,” she said.
TV presenter.
Operation Equilibrium and it
The Princess Royal added:
On arrival they hope to be
began with him training for the
“The RNRMC is a well-
joined by a US Marine Corps
PADI (Professional Association
organised, cost-effective,
Gunnery Sergeant, Charles
of Diving Instructors) Instructors’
flexible organisation that can
Padilla and extra support
qualification required by IAHD
accommodate all levels of
crew drawn from both the
(International Association of
charitable activity.”
Royal Marines and the Army,
Handicapped Divers).
The event also saw the launch
including triple amputee
The IAHD’s main objective is
of the new logo (see above) for the
Mne Mark Ormrod who is
to assist the disabled to achieve
Naval charity, which is a single
hoping to run at least a mile a
a variety of diving qualifications
charity focus for the whole of the
and through that foster greater
Naval family.
Damian made his decision
self-confidence, fitness and self-
The RNRMC has brought
to organise such an event after
discipline in those who have lost
together more than 65
limbs and with it their belief in
● Limbless Service men and women, who are part of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association
Mark lost both his legs and his independent charities, trusts and
themselves as active members of
(BLESMA), diving in the Red Sea
right arm in Afghanistan. in-service funds over the past
Whilst the media covers
the community.
something about it was a life- rush to help each diver with their with my boy, but now I can do two years to create a new charity
the tragic loss of life in the
It took John three years of
changing decision in itself,” said equipment or prosthetics, but in this with him.” which enables long-established
military, less is said about
planning and organising to get
John. the end all the instructors and Finally, three years’ later they naval charities to work alongside,
those who return with life-
there, but running in parallel with
Many friends have been made boat crew realised that by not have all just returned from the whilst maintaining their own
changing injuries, which make
that was diving training for the
along the way and in particular a stepping in we were encouraging Red Sea having turned a long- identity.
coping with simple tasks, for a
whole group, some of whom had
strong and on-going partnership perseverance and self-sufficiency. held dream into a reality and The charities share
previously active person, even
never dived before and others who
with Emperor Fleet, the diving “More importantly we learned with all of them achieving further administrative and legal costs,
more difficult and frustrating.
wanted to take it up again and
company based in Egypt that that they did not want that kind qualifications along the way. which means there is more
For this reason Damian
upgrade their accreditation.
provided dive guides and the of help. On all sides everyone has money in the pot to distribute to
chose the Help for Heroes
As the project gained
live-aboard vessel which hosted “It was a humbling experience to learned more about trust and those in need.
charity and with the
momentum, John was joined
everyone during that week. watch them overcome the practical perseverance from this series of However, most of the charity’s
involvement of the USMC they
by Stuart Queen, a civilian
The group visited various difficulties they encountered and courageous dives. money comes from investment
hope to raise money for their
policeman based in Devon and
famous dive sites down the it was very educational to listen John is now planning another income rather than donations.
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Doug Davie, the National Health
Sinai Classic route from Sharm in to the exchange of tips and trip, having just passed the The take-up rate for the
as well.
and Wellbeing Manager for the
El Sheikh and experienced a techniques amongst the students Certificate in Education to enhance voluntary donation from pay
Both Help for Heroes Royal British Legion, who were challenging but hugely rewarding about how to live with their his ability to pass on his diving scheme is only about 12 per cent
and Semper Fi raise funds both experienced divers. week in every sense. disability. expertise and he is thinking about in the Navy, as opposed to about
to support wounded and ill The adventure for the 15 Terri Hunt, who has lost one leg “Above all my memory is of expanding this type of training 80 per cent in the RAF.
members of the Armed Forces, BLESMA members began by below the knee and at one point professionalism, the friendly to disadvantaged children, those Recent fundraising events for
and their families, throughout starting the PADI Open Water during the week was thinking of exchange of service banter and with other health challenges and the RNRMC include AB(Diver)
their recovery period. course in the pool at HMS giving up, said “In John Strutt very good company.” adults with learning difficulties. Toby Jones running in the Great
The Gumpathon is a Collingwood supported by I met someone more stubborn Diving gives the disabled total Time is the one resource he is South Run in his dive kit, and a
registered Red Letter event in members from Southsea BSAC than me!” as she went on to freedom underwater, unlike being short of so if you are interested in 24-hour Ironman Triathlon by
2010 with Help for Heroes. (British Sub-Aqua Club). achieve the PADI Open Water on land, and this was best summed getting involved, please contact Devonport’s Southern Diving
If you are interested in “You have to be fit to dive Diver Certification. up by one of the dads on course John Strutt at John.strutt368@ Unit 1.
supporting this event then visit and therefore for many taking John said “It was difficult at called Tommo., phone 01329 245078 or Find out more at www.rnrmc. part accepting this fact and doing first for the instructors not to “I can’t play rugby or football mobile 07500 871 772.
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