Highbury’s blind footballing veteran remembered

George Smith (in white) is presented with a football trophy by fellow blind veteran Ian Fraser

George Smith (in white) is presented with a football trophy by fellow blind veteran Ian Fraser - Credit: Archant

The “indomitable spirit” of a Highbury soldier who captained the first British blind football team after being injured in the First World War has been commended.

George Smith lost his sight when a shell exploded near him during the battle of Aisne, which took place 100 years ago this September.

He was 30 when injured during the British army’s first military victory of the war, both shot in the elbow and blinded.

But within just a few years, he was captaining the Blind Veterans UK’s football team.

After his discharge from the army Mr Smith came to the charity, then known as St Dunstan’s, for help.

They trained him as a basket maker, equipping him with skills that ensured he could live independently for the rest of his life.

He began playing for the organisation’s football team, the ‘Dunstonians’ – the first of its kind in the UK.

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Rob Baker, Blind Veterans UK’s information and archives officer, said: “George was one of the very first soldiers to be blinded in the First World War, but his indomitable spirit led him to achieve incredible things – not least of which was him captaining a blind football team.

He added: “The number of soldiers who, like George, came home blinded from World War One inspired the formation of Blind Veterans UK, a charity which still supports thousands of vision impaired veterans.”

The Dunstonians were comprised of blind servicemen and just like with wounded veterans from more recent conflicts, sport was an important therapy for George Smith and his team mates.

Mr Baker said: “With the charity’s help, the soldiers who returned blinded from the front went on to demonstrate incredible, truly awe-inspiring courage in the ways they discovered life after sight loss.

“As with George nearly a century ago, sport continues to be a big part of the lives of ex-Service men and women who are supported by Blind Veterans UK today.”

Blind Veterans UK supports over 3,500 blind and vision impaired veterans – no matter how or when they lost their sight. For more information about the charity and its work, please visitwww.blindveterans.org.uk.