Ron Freer
Remembrance

104-Year-Old Blind Veteran To Be Oldest To March On Remembrance Sunday

The Second World War veteran said he is "hugely honoured" to be marching to pay tribute to those who fell in battle.

Ron Freer

Ron Freer will be marching alongside 100 other blind veterans (Picture: Blind Veterans UK)

104-year-old, Ron Freer, will be the oldest person marching at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday this year.

The Second World War veteran said he is "hugely honoured" to be marching to pay tribute to those who fell in battle.

The fallen include his father, who died in the First World War and is buried at the Somme in France.

He will be marching on behalf of Blind Veterans UK.

They were instrumental in helping him when he returned home, blind, in 1945 after being held as a Japanese prisoner of war for four years.

He said: "I am hugely honoured to march at Cenotaph on behalf of Blind Veterans UK.

"It is an extraordinary charity, which makes an unbelievable difference to the lives of veterans like me, and our families too.

"Remembrance Sunday is always very important to me. My father was killed on September 4 1918 and is buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery in the Somme, France."

Ron will be joined by 100 other blind veterans on the march.

Ron Freer

Ron Freer In His Uniform whilst serving in the Army (Picture: Blind Veterans UK)

Joining the army in 1931, he was posted to Hong Kong to defend the then British colony.

In late 1941, however, the Japanese attacked Fort Stanley.

After 18 days of fighting, his garrison surrendered against overwhelming odds.

He became a Japanese prisoner of war (PoW) and remained so until the end of the Second World War.

It was this four-year ordeal that led to Ron losing his sight, because of the malnutrition he suffered in the camp: "The camp was situated on the edge of the harbour with high fences all around.

"The Japanese brought in a bag of rice for each unit but only enough for one meal a day per man.

"We cut an oil drum in half and used the bottom as a boiling pot for the rice.

"Each man was given a scoop of rice but many were unable to eat it and looking at the portion of rice, one could see mice droppings and insects.

"Disease soon broke out resulting in many deaths."

But it was whilst on a boat being transported to a prison in Japan, Ron caught the infectious disease and his life was only saved by the actions of two doctors.

He says: "Lying in the hut with all the others suffering, I heard a voice say 'turn over Sergeant', I was then injected with something and the voice said, 'you are very lucky'.

"I knew then that it was our medical officer. He later told me that a Japanese civilian doctor had managed to smuggle in six phials of anti-diphtheria toxin so the two of them had saved my life."

A month later, Ron had completely lost his sight and most of his hearing, and spent the remainder of the war in the camp medical hut.

At the end of the war he returned to the UK via the Philippines and New Zealand.

It was then that his journey with Blind Veterans UK, then known as St Dunstan's, began.

Now aged 104. he is proud to once more march at the Cenotaph on Sunday.

"It will be an honour to march with them once again.