A PARTIALLY-blind army veteran says he will be thinking of all the servicemen who never made it back to their families when he marches on the Cenotaph in Westminster this weekend.

Frank Staples joined the Royal Engineers in 1955 as an 18-year-old Regular Army recruit. He was posted around the world, building roads on the slopes of Mount Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising and swapped his sapper’s tools for a bayonet and ammunition when his unit was posted to Bahrain during the Suez crisis of 1956.

Now 81 and living in Coleview with Ruth, his wife of almost six decades, Frank will be at London’s Cenotaph on Sunday. The former butcher will march with Blind Veterans UK, the charity that has supported him since 2014. Former Judo teacher Frank, who suffers from macular degeneration in his left eye and retina damage in his right after one too many black eyes on the Judo mats, noticed his sight begin to fade in 1976.

He said: “When I’m at the Cenotaph I shall be thinking, ‘Thanks lads, you’ve given a lot’. I’m just glad it wasn’t me and I’m grateful to them.

“You just imagine those men, standing there in the trenches or going into a machine gun nest. I wouldn’t have liked to have had a kid there. My mum was going through the same thing when I went to Bahrain during Suez, because we didn’t know what we were going into.


“In 1956 they suddenly decided to turn us into infantrymen. They got us jumping out the back of wagons, but we were still Royal Engineers. We were like Rambo, we had bandoliers of ammunition. But when we got there, they didn’t know what to do with us. We ended up building a dance floor for the Americans.”

His final posting was to Weymouth, where Aldershot-born Frank met his wife at a roller-skating hall. Demobbed in 1957, he had a varied career as a milkman, driver, Rover storeman and butcher in Penhill and Broad Street with B. J. Martin and Sons.

Frank spent almost 40 years slowly losing his sight before he joined Blind Veterans UK. The charity has helped provide the latest technology, including a tablet computer and high-tech magnifying lens. Holidays run by the charity has seen partially-sighted Frank riding quad bikes, karts and horses with other blind veterans.

On Saturday, he will make the journey across London on his own, ready for the Cenotaph memorial service on Sunday.

Frank said: “I have wanted to take part in the Cenotaph march since I joined Blind Veterans UK. This year I have plucked up the courage to cross London on my own and do it.”

Maj Gen Nick Caplin, chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, said: “Remembrance Sunday is a very poignant time for our blind veterans as we reflect on the sacrifice and service of all members of the Armed Forces.”

“Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 in response to the more than 3,000 veterans who were blinded as a result of the First World War. Today we support more blind veterans than ever before in our history, but we know there are many more who still need our help to rebuild their lives following their sight loss.”