Suffolk blind veteran, 98, will march at the Cenotaph
PUBLISHED: 10:28 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:33 07 November 2018
A blind veteran from Suffolk is set to march at the Cenotaph in London on Sunday as part of the Remembrance commemorations in the capital.
Eric Cook, a resident at Cornwallis Court, in Bury St Edmunds, will march at the war memorial on Whitehall for the first time alongside more than 100 other blind veterans.
The 98-year-old, who formerly lived in Felixstowe and was active with his local Royal Artillery Association, will march with Blind Veterans UK – the national charity for vision-impaired ex-service men and women.
He will be joined by his grandson Julian Cook, Warrant Officer 2nd Class, who is bandmaster of the band of her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Plymouth, based in HMS Raleigh.
Mr Cook joined the Territorial Army in May 1939 and was called up to the regular army in September of that year.
He joined the Royal Artillery and served with 231 Battery, 67th Medium Suffolk Regiment and was deployed to the Middle East via South Africa and Aden.
He later followed the fighting to North Africa, surviving the war and eventually being discharged as a lance corporal in 1946.
“This is the first time I will march at the Cenotaph and I know it will be a very poignant occasion,” Mr Cook said.
“I will be remembering all the boys I joined up with in Felixstowe who never came back. To lose 100 people out of your regiment is a huge number when there were only 500 to start with.
“I often think back to the comrades I lost in the Second World War. Particularly my dearest friend Gordon Simmons from Colchester.
“He worked at the local hairdressers before he was called up and was due to be best man at my wedding. We were both the same age.
“He was on an Italian boat taking prisoners of war to Italy. Tragically it was sunk by a British submarine in the Mediterranean.”
After the war, Mr Cook returned to Suffolk where he entered the building trade.
He said: “It means everything to me to be with Julian at the Cenotaph. It’s a real honour. Me an old soldier and him a young member of the Marines – I couldn’t ask for more.”
Mr Cook lost his sight due to age-related macular degeneration and has been supported by Blind Veterans UK since 2011.
He enjoys meeting other veterans in the area through lunch clubs and has visited the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton on several occasions.
He also has a specially trained Rehabilitation Officer for Visual Impairment (ROVI) who visits him at the care home.
“My ROVI is wonderful and I really relish his visits each week,” he added. “The support I get from the Blind Veterans UK team based in Ipswich is wonderful and so crucial to my wellbeing.”
Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, said: “Remembrance Sunday is a very poignant time for our blind veterans as we reflect on the sacrifice and service of all members of the Armed Forces.
“Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 in response to the more than 3,000 veterans who were blinded as a result of the First World War.
“Today we support more blind veterans than ever before in our history, but we know there are many more who still need our help to rebuild their lives following their sight loss.”