A blind Second World War veteran from Teesside is preparing to march at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday (November 12).

 Dennis Smith, 97, from Eston, will be marching at the Cenotaph as part of the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations with more than 40 other blind veterans

Mr Smith first joined the Home Guard in 1942 at just 16 years of age.

The Northern Echo: Dennis Smith, 97, will march at the Cenotaph in LondonDennis Smith, 97, will march at the Cenotaph in London (Image: BLIND VETERANS UK)

He said: “I lied about my age to join the Home Guard but I learned a lot from those men. Lots of them were older but I suppose I was the Private Pike in our own Dad’s Army.”

After joining the regular Army in 1944 and initially training at Fort George in Inverness, he was soon sent to serve in France not long after D-Day.

“We landed at Juno Beach and it must have been a couple of weeks after D-Day. The main thing I remember is how seasick I felt on the landing craft," Mr Smith added.

“I have lots of memories of that time, some of which I didn’t really talk about until recently.

The Northern Echo: Dennis Smith during his time in the armyDennis Smith during his time in the army (Image: BLIND VETERANS UK)

“They wanted drivers so I was sent on a course to do military driving. One night we all piled into a truck in Northern France, and I could hear the sound of the guns so I knew we were getting near the front.

“We stopped in a small town and went into a little hotel. We were told to rip our tunics and badges off and put new ones on. It meant we were joining the 51st Highland Division – ‘Black Watch’.

“I remember there was a big settee that had been moved into the middle of the town square and we were all sent out to wait for the Sergeant.

"We were told not to smoke but one of the lads I was with lit up anyway and it acted like a flare for a nearby German aircraft that shot right at us and we had to take cover. That settee we were sitting on was torn to shreds.”

As well as Black Watch, Dennis also served with the Green Howards, The Lincolns and The Worcesters during his time in the Army.

He was demobbed in 1948 leaving service as a Private 1st Class.

Dennis started to lose his sight due to age-related macular degeneration in 2018, 70 years after his time in Service. 

He said: “I felt really down when I was told. My wife is blind from a hereditary condition so she has been able to help me and we help each other in lots of ways. The hardest thing is I’m not confident going out on my own anymore.”

After that, he found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity last year. 

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Dennis will be marching with his fellow blind veterans at the Cenotaph for the very first time this Remembrance Sunday. 

He added: “I’m really looking forward to it. I have always watched it on television every year but never gone.

“When it gets to the silence at 11 o’clock I’ll be thinking of some of my friends who didn’t make it back. I lost quite a few.

“I had no idea that there was a charity out there that could help veterans struggling with their sight like me. Anyone who’s in my position should definitely get in touch with Blind Veterans UK.”