Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead celebrating their love (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).
Veterans

Blind Second World War Veterans Find Love Aged 97

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead celebrated with a ceremony in Ovingdean, near Brighton.

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead celebrating their love (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead celebrating their love (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).

Two blind veterans who served during the Second World War have found love again in their 90s, and celebrated with a blessing where they vowed to live out their days together. 

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead, both 97, celebrated their new-found romance with a ceremony at the Blind Veterans UK's chapel in Ovingdean, near Brighton, on Wednesday.

The pair met in May last year at the sight loss charity's training and rehabilitation centre where they both now live.

Mr Van Zeller proposed just over six months later in November, and the pair decided to make a formal commitment to each other surrounded by family and friends.

They held hands throughout the service, which had all the hallmarks of a wedding without the legal formality of a marriage, in a chapel decorated with flowers and hearts.

Peter Van Zeller in service (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).
Peter Van Zeller during his time in service (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).

Mr Van Zeller said he fell in love as soon as he met Mrs Bowstead, adding: "This lady came and sat next to me in the lounge after dinner.

"She definitely had a spark about her and we hit it off immediately.

"Until I met Nancy, I hadn't realised how lonely I'd really been since my wife died. We just want to live and be happy together for a very long time."

But Mrs Bowstead joked Mr Van Zeller was "a little grumpy at first" before they got chatting, adding: "It was just like an electric shock.

"We now live just four doors down from each other so I can go and visit him whenever I wish.

"He proposed because he wanted to make sure I didn't go off with another man. There are a lot more men than women here.

"It is a dream come true to know that I could be treasured and feel loved by someone as wonderful as Peter after many years alone.

"It really has been a miracle and we love each other to bits."

Mr Van Zeller grew up Inverness and joined the RAF aged 18.

He joined the Army in December 1943, being sent to Sword Beach in Normandy in June 1944 about a week after the D-Day landings, serving in the Somerset Light Infantry.

His wife Betty died in 2012 aged 89.

Nancy Bowstead during World War Two (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).
Nancy Bowstead during World War Two (Picture: Blind Veterans UK).

Mrs Bowstead, from Cheshire, told her family she must leave her home to serve her country at just 17-years-of-age.

She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1941 and was commissioned as an officer in 1943.

She went on to serve on a gun site in Swansea for the remainder of the war.

Mrs Bowstead has two children and her husband Derek died in 2013 aged 89.

The couple both lost their sight in later life due to glaucoma and after Mrs Bowstead had two strokes while Mr Van Zeller also had macular degeneration.

Mrs Bowstead started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2011 and Mr Zeller in 2016.

After the service, the pair laughed and joked together as they gathered outside for photographs while they were showered with confetti.

Mrs Bowstead said:

"We want to live forever and enjoy our time together. We've had a lot to face in our lives and we just want to enjoy each other's company."

The pair marked the occasion with a reception with loved ones, enjoying a buffet and cake while raising a toast.