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Memorial to blinded serviceman unveiled in Manchester

Photo: MEN Syndication

A permanent memorial to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War has been unveiled in Manchester.

Commissioned by military charity Blind Veterans UK, the statue depicts seven blind solders marching with a hand on the shoulder of a comrade in front.

Blind Veterans UK was founded more than 100 years ago to support those blinded in the First World War and now the charity supports veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.

The bronze statue will be permanently placed outside Manchester Piccadilly station.

Chief executive of Blind Veterans UK, retired Major General Nick Caplin, said: "Helping blind veterans achieve victory over blindness is the cornerstone of everything we do, and have always done, at Blind Veterans UK.

"In 2018 victory over blindness means enabling blind veterans to lead the lives they choose.

"Blind Veterans UK enables ex-servicemen and women to rebuild their lives after sight loss through free services and lifelong practical and emotional support. We support all blind veterans regardless of when they served or how they lost their sight.

"The statue demonstrates the life-changing impact the charity has had over the last 103 years.

"This statue is our way of commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War and recognising the amazing work achieved by our veterans at that time and ever since."

The original sculpture was conceived and designed by artist and sculptress Johanna Domke-Guyot, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1994 and studied art as a way of dealing with her illness.

She said: "I remember deciding one day after my diagnosis that I didn't want to give up. I went back into education and found a new love.

"I started the piece this bronze is based on in 2011. It was like art therapy for me and, due to relapses, took years in the end.

"My MS means that my fingers are pretty numb so people are always interested in how I'm able to sculpt with so little feeling. I have developed my own techniques over time.

"I'm over the moon with how the statue has turned out. It's been a very long journey and I under-estimated how emotional I would feel about the whole process.

"The time I've had with these seven figures over these years and seeing them come to life has been really amazing.

"Bringing them to life again in a bronze that will last for years and years is overwhelming. People will be able to touch them, I want it to become a people's piece."

More information about the statue and the charity can be found at blindveterans.org.uk/victory