A FORMER RAF pilot in the Second World War will share his experiences at the next meeting of the Barnt Green Macular Society next Friday.
Harry Garthwaite, who will celebrate his 101 birthday on June 4, clocked up almost 2,500 flying hours, and flew 23 different aircraft types including the Hurricane, the Spitfire and an abandoned German trainer. He was even mentioned in dispatches.
Although his flying days ended in February 1946 when he was demobbed, Harry remains an aircraft enthusiast and is 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 UK’s biggest cause of sight loss.
Five years ago, and after 67 happy years of marriage, Harry’s wife died.
The restrictions implemented during the pandemic have resulted in him 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 contacted him to ask if we would be interested in speaking to more members and volunteers at telephone support group meetings across the country.
He said: “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.”
The Macular Society, which funds medical research to in a bid to beat the disease, suspended all face-to-face support services when the coronavirus first struck last year.
Since then the charity has provided a new range of telephone and online support services, including telephone befriending.
Services are available to anyone affected by sight loss, their family or friends.
Amanda Read, 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.”
Anyone wanting to join the call, or get more information about additional support services available locally should call email Amanda Read at email@example.com or call her on 07432 700478.