February 10 2014.

A blind National Service veteran from Ipswich has thanked a national charity for helping him keep up with the news about his lifelong hobby – motorcycling.

Tony Crouch, 80, said he “couldn’t speak highly enough” of Blind Veterans UK, which has provided free and comprehensive support to help him live independently with sight loss.

A motorbike enthusiast since his teens, Tony has been able to keep up with his interests with the help of equipment supplied by Blind Veterans UK.

Tony, who suffers from age-related macular degeneration and a macular hole, says: “I was having difficulty reading my motorbike magazines until I was given a magnifier and LED reading lamp to help.

“I just thought it was absolutely unbelievable – I’ve always loved reading about motorcycling, but I never thought I’d still be able to after losing my sight.”

Like millions of young men of his generation, Tony was called up for National Service when he turned 21. Serving in the Royal Signals from 1954 to 1956, Tony served at military bases in the UK and Germany, before being discharged as a lance corporal.

“Of course, when you were called up, chances are you didn’t want to do it – you’re taken out of your natural environment and sometimes posted a long way from your friends and family. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, though.

“I was slung in with about 30 other people from all over the British Isles, all from different backgrounds, all working together. It was a great experience, and a fantastic education.”

Following his service, Tony worked for a local motorcycle dealership under legendary European Motocross champion Dave Bickers: “It was something I love doing, being around the bikes. Maybe I could have earned more somewhere else, but money isn’t everything and I just enjoyed it so much.”

Tony started to lose his sight nearly 60 years after leaving the Forces. He was referred to Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-Service men and women, by his local blind association.

Despite his sight problems, Tony was not sure the charity was going to be able to help him: “My first reaction was, ‘Well, that’s not for me – I only did National Service and my sight loss isn’t because of my time in the Army, so surely I can’t be eligible’.

“What I didn’t realise at the time was that Blind Veterans UK gives support to veterans with sight loss, no matter when or how they lost their sight. I filled in an application form, sent it off and was offered support from the charity shortly after.

“After the help I’ve received, I simply can’t speak highly enough of Blind Veterans UK.”

In October 2012 Blind Veterans UK launched its No One Alone campaign – the charity estimates that there are 68,000 plus blind veterans who, like Tony, are eligible for the charity’s services but are not currently aware of this. If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces - did National Service perhaps, and are now battling severe sight problems - Blind Veterans UK may well be able to provide them and their family with a lifetime's practical and emotional support for free.

Call freephone - 0800 389 7979 or go to now.