Here’s a little fact for you; there are 77,000 war memorials in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and none of them depict a disabled service person. Well, number 77,001 does…
October 2018 saw the unveiling of ‘Victory Over Blindness‘, a statue that depicts seven blinded First World War soldiers, leading one another away from the battlefield with their hand on the shoulder of the man in front.
Unusually, the soldiers, whom are based upon real veterans who actually suffered blindness as a result of action on the front line, are not placed on a plinth or platform – instead standing at eye-level with the thousands of passers-by that walk that way every single day.
The moving piece was created by Johanna Domke-Guyot, a sculptor who was commissioned by the charity Blind Veterans UK to celebrate the centenary of its inception.
She was inspired by a photograph that she had seen of WW1 veterans, and she hoped that “People will be able to touch them… [that it will] become a people’s piece.” It’s placement right outside the city’s busiest train station certainly helps this.
As well as bringing to light the plight of the thousands of veterans who have lost their sight in the line of duty, the statue also aims to highlight the tireless work and dedication of Blind Veterans UK and how they aim to make life better for people once they leave the service.
The statue’s placement in Manchester is fitting insofar that Heaton Park housed a convalescent camp during the First World War, a place that treated and trained thousands of wounded soldiers and sailors, including many that suffered from sight loss – injuries that increased due to the massive use of shells, and mustard gas during the conflict.
Each soldier has been paired with a real-life soldier, past and present, each one with their own story over the last 100 years. You can read about them further below…