Sight loss support group welcome WW2 pilot as guest speaker
Members and volunteers of Ballymena Macular Society telephone support group are set to enjoy hearing about the wartime experiences of a former WW2 RAF pilot at their next group call on Tuesday, March 16, at 11am.
Harry Garthwaite, who celebrated his 100th birthday last year, clocked up almost 2,500 hours, flew 23 different aircraft types including the Hurricane, the Spitfire and an abandoned German trainer, and was mentioned in dispatches.
Although his flying days ended in February 1946 when he was demobbed, Harry remains an aircraft enthusiast and a keen member of his local RAF Association.
Harry is affected by dry age related macular degeneration (AMD), a sight loss condition that affects his central vision. AMD is a form of macular disease, the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. The Macular Society, a leading sight loss charity which funds research to beat macular disease, suspended all face-to-face support services when the coronavirus first struck last year. Since then, it has provided a new range of telephone and online support services, which are available to anyone affected by sight loss, their family or friends.
Sadly, five years ago, and after 67 years of happy marriage, Harry’s wife died.
In addition, the necessary restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic have resulted in Harry having less contact with people. But, a chance telephone call provided him with the opportunity to regain some social contact.
He said: “I was invited by an RAF Association friend of mine to share some of my wartime flying experiences with the members and volunteers of the Wem Macular Society telephone support group. They made me feel so welcome. I really enjoyed talking to them and we also had a very in-depth discussion about how, during the war, people helped each other, very much as we are all trying to do now.
“After that talk, the Macular Society got in contact with me to ask if I would be interested in speaking to more of their members and volunteers at some of their other telephone support group meetings across the country. I was surprised but also absolutely delighted because it means that by helping in this way I can reciprocate the community support spirit that I have experienced in my life.”
Karen Toogood, senior regional manager for the charity, said: “We are delighted to welcome Harry as a guest speaker to our group call. I have
absolutely no doubt that he will be very popular and we very much look forward to hearing his stories.”
If you would like to join the call, or for more information about additional support services available locally, contact Karen on 02891 466
305 or email [email protected]