David Atkinson, a member of Granta Lodge No. 6179 in the Province of Cambridgeshire, has returned to the Falkland Islands for the first time since the war ended in 1982
David joined the Royal Navy in 1972 (Naval Canteen Service) and was selected to join the crew of HMS Endurance during the Falklands conflict. He later served on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, but had to retire from the Royal Navy in 1991 due to loss of his sight.
As a recipient of the South Atlantic Medal, David took advantage of a concessionary flight and travelled by Voyager, the largest Royal Air Force aircraft, on the ‘air bridge’ between RAF Brize Norton and the Falklands.
During the trip David, together with his guide Phil Drewery, who also served on HMS Endurance, stayed at Liberty Lodge in Port Stanley. There they visited a number of battlefields including Goose Green and Fitzroy. David also presented Nigel Phillips CBE, Governor of the Falklands, with a Blind Veterans UK tie and laid a wreath at the 1982 Liberation Memorial.
David said: ‘I wanted to go back to pay my respects and see how things had changed. It was a very emotional trip and an honour to remember those who fell in battle.
‘My thanks go to Blind Veterans UK and the Falklands Veterans Foundation for helping to make this trip happen. The support I have received from Blind Veterans UK has been brilliant. I have received training and equipment which has enabled me to do everyday tasks which were otherwise impossible. I was a keen canoer before losing my sight and Blind Veterans UK gave me the opportunity to get back on the water.’
Life is good
After an attack left Clive Jones blind at the age of 26, he put the pieces of his life back together with the support of the community. Now, Freemasonry is helping him to give back
Eleven years ago, Clive Jones found himself freewheeling down a steep hill in High Wycombe on a tandem bike with an ex-Navy friend, praying the brakes would work. The four-day charity ride to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War would last 252 miles, stretching from Buckingham Palace to Cardiff Castle.
It was Clive’s most challenging fundraising event, and not just because the tandem was laborious to ride. The journey was all the more remarkable because Clive was blinded in 2000 in an unprovoked assault while serving with the Welsh Guards. After losing his sight, he has spent the last 18 years rebuilding his life.
Today, Wales-born Clive is a busy father of three, optimistic and active within his local community in Shropshire, and keen to raise money for deserving charities or individuals in need. But the memories from December 2000 are never far away. ‘I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ he says now.
Clive was only 26 at the time of the incident, married with two young daughters. Joining the army had been his childhood dream, and he had planned to serve for many more years. The assault brought those dreams to an end.
‘After the assault, I was in a coma for a week. When I woke up, I soon realised there was something very drastically wrong with my eyes,’ he remembers. ‘I had been a highly capable soldier, and when I woke up, I was a scared child. I don’t feel embarrassed saying that now. I couldn’t even do the simplest things, like tying my own shoelaces.’
Clive’s initial fears related to his job and his family’s financial security, but he was also anxious about the future of his marriage. He need not have worried: Clive and Stephanie have now been married for 22 years. They have a 13-year-old son in addition to their two daughters, now aged 19 and 22. ‘The charity Blind Veterans UK (BVUK, formerly St Dunstan’s) taught me how to live again,’ he explains. ‘I’m now highly independent at home and within my local community, so life is good.’
KEEPING IT LIGHT
One of the most important skills Clive gained with BVUK’s help was learning how to use a computer: ‘That gave me a lifeline to the outside world again, and it has done a hell of a lot for my confidence.’ He also took up archery in 2001, becoming a British Blind Sport indoor and outdoor national champion. ‘To be fair, a blind man in charge of bows and arrows does sound a bit scary,’ Clive says, laughing.
In the past he has organised competitions on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and he has recently re-embraced the sport. But whatever the activity, a sense of humour is an essential part of Clive’s armoury – especially when fundraising. So far, he has raised in excess of £76,000; his efforts include sponsored walks, raffles, auctions and his legendary curry nights. One particular event took place on St David’s Day in 2016, when Clive decided that everyone attending should wear something Welsh.
‘I wore a full-length red dragon onesie and it was so blooming hot!’ he recalls. ‘Some people think I have a dry sense of humour; others reckon I have a rather sick sense of humour – maybe it’s a bit of both. But life is short, I say, so enjoy it.’
Jeremy Lund, Shropshire Deputy Provincial Grand Master, is a staunch admirer of Clive’s optimism. ‘The sacrifices Clive has made for charity are remarkable. There was even the wearing of the despised England shirt for every match during the Six Nations tournament in 2016,’ he says, with tongue firmly in cheek. ‘The effort nearly broke him.’
Keith Stokes, a long-time friend and a member of St Mary’s Lodge, No. 8373, describes Clive as ‘open and lovable’. He adds: ‘That’s why his charitable work is so well supported, because everyone wants to be there. He even organises charity darts nights and, let me tell you, trying to play darts with a blind man is a bit dangerous!’
‘If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master’
A SENSE OF BELONGING
While Clive may laugh in the face of adversity, the one thing he’s very serious about is his commitment to Freemasonry. He was 30 when he became a Freemason, following a BVUK summer camp at HMS Sultan in Gosport.
‘Nineteen out of the 25 people attending were masons, and I’d always liked what the organisation represented,’ recalls Clive, who, after enquiring further, was proposed by another blind veteran and initiated on 25 April 2005.
‘The sense of belonging was immediate,’ he says. ‘It’s a very inclusive organisation, and being blind has never been an issue. In St Mary’s, my Mother Lodge in Market Drayton, I’m now in the Master’s chair for the third time [his previous tenures were 2011 and 2012]. I’m Worshipful Master of the Armed Forces Lodge, No. 9875, in Monmouthshire – which I was very proud to help found. I also run two masonic groups for blind veterans. One involves a phenomenal weekend every year in Brighton, and the other is a week in Llandudno. If anything, being blind has spurred me on.’
Acting as Worshipful Master three times has given Clive a very clear idea of what the role requires. ‘The ability to listen is really important. The Master is the head of the lodge, but he’s only as good as his officers and members. If you can listen and guide, allowing yourself to be guided to a degree – and do all of that with a smile on your face – you’ll be a good Master.’
Certainly, Clive has loved the opportunities to lead his lodge: ‘I actually quite like the strains and stresses of it, which is just as well. When I was assaulted, I also suffered some short-term memory loss, so it’s more difficult for me to learn the rituals and retain all the information.’
With Shropshire aiming to raise a total of £1 million during its five-year Festival Appeal, St Mary’s Lodge has already reached 150 per cent of its target – a phenomenal achievement a year ahead of schedule. Being part of an organisation with such strong values also makes Clive very proud.
‘It’s so rewarding to make a financial difference to people’s lives, or to be able to relieve everyday hardships. The “helping” aspect of our work is just wonderful.’
The desire to help others is part of Clive’s own personal mantra, but it’s something he plays down. ‘He’s very thoughtful, but he’s definitely not comfortable with being appreciated,’ Alex Knight, the manageress of Clive’s local pub, the Kings Arms, says. ‘He came to my wedding and gave us the most unique gift. I’m a big Petula Clark fan, and Clive arranged for her to send us a message of congratulations. It was mentioned in one of the speeches at the wedding, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone turn a brighter shade of red than Clive did that day!’
‘I have never wanted to be recognised for my charity work, but the past few years do seem to have involved a lot of awards,’ Clive acknowledges. ‘Being awarded Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton is really special. We moved here after my assault to get a fresh start, and it’s wonderful to be accepted by my adopted home town.
‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give. It’s not a wealthy town, but what we don’t have in money, we’ve got in heart.’
Looking ahead, Clive admits that the only downside of being so busy is that he doesn’t spend enough time with family and friends. ‘I would love an eighth day in the week. However, the sense of achievement within my life is fantastic. My happiness comes through helping others to be happy.’
‘The community has been so supportive of my fundraising work. If I ask, they give’
‘Clive’s blindness has not defined him – far from it. Instead, he has achieved his own victory over blindness and developed into a truly inspirational Freemason. His fundraising and caring for others is remarkable, and the Province of Shropshire is blessed and proud to be able to share and learn from his infectious enthusiasm for life. He is an ambassador for all that is good and true about Freemasonry.’ Peter Allan Taylor, Past Provincial Grand Master for Shropshire
‘Clive lost his sight in the service of his country but has not allowed this to hinder him in his masonry or in his other fundraising activities. If anything, he is energised by it. To his many masonic friends and acquaintances, he embodies the spirit of “Darkness Visible” – communicating light to those around him. He is truly an inspirational man and mason.’ Jeremy Lund, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Shropshire
‘I’ve known Clive as a friend for some 27 years. We served in the Welsh Guards together and now we’re both members of St Mary’s lodge. I admire Clive’s tenaciousness and his positivity, and the fact that he is so widely respected within the lodge and the community of Market Drayton. He is a brilliant Master because he likes everyone to be involved and to feel comfortable, and he brings such a sense of fun to every meeting he holds. He’s phenomenal, really.’ Keith Stokes, friend and fellow Freemason
Recent recognition for Clive
Honoured by Blind Veterans UK for his charitable work
Finalist in the Courage category in the Pride of Shropshire Awards
Finalist in the Inspiration category in the Soldiering On Awards
Finalist in the ITV Fundraiser of the Year, Midlands, category at the Pride of Britain Awards
Named Honorary Townsman of Market Drayton for his contributions to charity and community life
Serial fundraisers W Bro Clive and Steph Jones and fifty curry chums dined out in Market Drayton on 2nd August, to support Blind Veterans UK
Hosted by Oruna Cuisine, all the happy diners enjoyed a very generous three-course meal supplemented by Clive’s customary jovial take on life. Steph took charge of financial matters and a well-supported raffle prize draw generated a fund raising result in excess of £600.
Blind Veterans UK is a charity very close to Clive’s heart. The charity supported former Welsh Guardsman Clive and his family when he lost his sight in December 2000. 'I really cannot put into words the debt I owe to Blind Veterans.' Clive said, 'Unexpectedly catapulted into a world of total darkness the charity worked steadfastly with me and my family, helping to rebuild our lives. Simply saying "thank you" is just not enough!'
Sir Arthur Pearson, who owned the Evening Standard and founded the Daily Express, established St Dunstans in 1915. Having lost his own sight through glaucoma, he was shocked at society's attitude to blindness. He decided to help those who had lost their vision in the First World War by giving them the care and rehabilitation they needed to lead constructive, self-sufficient lives.
Nearly a century later, Blind Veterans UK (the successor to St Dunstan's) not only cares for ex-Service men and women blinded in action, but for veterans who have lost their sight through accident, illness or old age. The charity has three centres (Brighton, Llandudno and Sheffield) that provide residential and respite care plus sports facilities, as well as qualified welfare staff who help blind veterans across the UK to live independently within their own communities.
Independent lives for veterans
Representatives from the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Wales visited the Blind Veterans UK centre in Llandudno to award the charity a £100,000 donation from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Provincial Grand Master Ieuan Redvers Jones presented the cheque to Blind Veterans UK chief executive Major General Nick Caplin.
The money will help in the refurbishment of buildings being turned into residential units for Blind Veterans UK’s Life Skills for Independent Living project in Llandudno. Delivering tailored, specialised training programmes to young, blind or limbless veterans at risk of homelessness, the project will focus on ensuring the most vulnerable ex-servicemen and women can live as independently as possible.
Welsh Guardsman, Freemason and fundraiser extraordinaire Clive Jones of St Mary's Lodge No. 8373 in the Province of Shropshire recently received a national community award for his charitable work. Blind Veterans UK honoured Clive at a ceremony at Brighton, in recognition of his non-stop work for the benefit of others.
Clive lost his sight in 2000 whilst serving on duty, and yet those who know him well can attest that this has barely slowed him at all – curry nights, quiz nights and Provincial perambulations all with but one thought in mind – to relieve his friends (and anyone else, for that matter) of their hard-earned cash so that it can go to charity!
Freemasonry Today recently carried a story and picture showing Clive taking part in a sponsored walk to raise funds for Shropshire’s 2019 Festival. This particular yomp of 11 miles counted as one of his tougher assignments, but, as ever, Clive came through it with a smile.
Clive received his prestigious award from Maj Gen (Rtd) Nick Caplin, CEO of the charity, on 31st March. Clive is not just a charitable man, but also a massive inspiration to those who suffer from similar disabilities, who take from Clive the simple message that they can still be positive and make a big difference in the world.
Blind veteran spreads the word
Blind Veterans UK, the national military charity for vision-impaired ex-service men and women, has thanked two fundraisers for their efforts in raising more than £2,000. Peter Phipps, a blind veteran who has been supported by the charity since 2013, and Roger Hampshire, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Oxfordshire, have raised money over the past year by travelling to lodges in the Oxfordshire area and talking about the work of Blind Veterans UK.
Peter, 86, wanted to raise money for the charity to express his thanks for the life-changing support it has provided him. Peter’s long-standing friend Roger drove him to almost all of the talks around the county, always joined by Peter’s dog Misty.
Blind veterans receive support
When completed, the new specially adapted bedroom will feature fully accessible wet-room facilities and an electronic hoist, making it ideal for frail veterans.
Lesley Garven, manager of the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation, training and care centre in Brighton, said: ‘Thanks to the Grand Charity, our blind veterans will be able to live even more comfortably in a supported environment with direct access to the highest quality of nursing.’
Funds for veterans
As part of the Freemasons’ continuing support for British ex-service personnel, the Grand Charity donated £50,000 to Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s). To date, the total donated to the charity is £101,000. The Grand Charity’s latest donation will fully fund a new state-of-the-art bedroom as part of a vital refurbishment project at its Brighton centre.
When thanking the Grand Charity for the donation, Lesley Garven, manager of the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation, training and care centre in Brighton, said that it would enable ‘blind veterans to live comfortably in a supported environment with access to the highest quality nursing’. The continuing support from Freemasons to our ex-service personnel is helping rebuild lives.
A full list of the non-masonic grants that were approved in November 2013 is available to view at www.grandcharity.org