Your Life: REAL STORIES: I Wasblinded in World War 2, but. Joan Was My Reward

The Mirror (London, England), July 9, 2005 | Go to article overview

Your Life: REAL STORIES: I Wasblinded in World War 2, but. Joan Was My Reward


Byline: BY KATY WEITZ

PURSING her lips Joan Osbourne and blows tenderly across the teacup as if blowing a kiss. Then she gently guides it into the hands of her husband Bob.

It is a simple but affectionate gesture of love which Joan, 78, hardly notices now after 58 years of marriage.

For she and her veteran husband met at a rehabilitation centre for blind servicemen after Bob lost his sight in Normandy in 1944.

Joan was one of the therapists who helped nurse him back to health after the hero soldier fell victim to a grenade attack. Bob also lost his left arm and right leg in the explosion, but Joan says she has never noticed his disabilities.

"To me, Bob has always just been my handsome fella," she says. "I've always helped him with everything, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

The couple, from Saltdean in Brighton, are proud parents of two boys, grandparents of four and great-grandparents of three girls.

Bob, 81, says: "I think Joan was my reward for losing my sight and two limbs. She was the silver lining that made it all worthwhile. She has given me a wonderful family and a happy life - who could ask for more?

"I've been in love with her from the moment we met and today I'm more in love than ever."

Their romance is a heartwarming and uplifting story of two people who found love through Britain's most trying times.

It was in September 1945 that 21-year-old Bob was brought to the St Dunstan's rehab centre in Church Stretton, Shropshire, where Joan worked as a music therapist.

"My dad lost his sight in the First World War," says Joan. "He was also just 20, the same age Bob was when he lost his sight. He became a Braille teacher at St Dunstan's - a charity that provides support, care, training and rehabilitation for blind ex-servicemen and women. I helped out there from the age of 14.

"I loved music and it really helped the soldiers, many of whom were shell-shocked. It was a form of psychiatric therapy and it could heal the wounds of terrible trauma.

"We helped the servicemen get back on their feet by taking them for trips into Shrewsbury town centre. And one day, when I was 18, I was asked to take a new lad to the pictures. It was Bob.

"I remember thinking that he was very handsome. And he enjoyed himself so much he started coming to my music classes."

Bob chuckles as he recalls: "She was quite strict. As we left each other that first day, I forgot to thank her for taking me to the pictures. Well, she wouldn't let me forget that.

"Joan helped me to play the guitar with a special gadget on my artificial arm and we had a lovely time. We both had a real love of music and after a couple of weeks I got up the courage to ask her out. She immediately agreed. I was so amazed I said: 'What do you want to go out with a lad like me for?' I nearly talked her out of it."

He can't remember much about the blast that robbed him of his sight and limbs. Five weeks earlier the private in the South Wales Borderers was in the first wave of D-Day landings in Normandy.

"The only way of describing it is bloody," he says. "But I had a job to do - I had to secure a radar. It was terrible, but we made it in the end. Then we pushed on through, and a few weeks after the landing my company was on Hill 112 when we were ordered to capture some 8mm guns. "We took them. Then another section came up to relieve us. We were just walking back through the field for about a quarter of a mile when we came under heavy gunfire.

"We fought back and when we thought it was over I sat down next to one of our tanks for a smoke. Then everything went black."

Bob was hit by a German grenade on July 11. He was flown back to Basingstoke, Hants, and was on the danger list for 10 days with double pneumonia, a fractured skull, an injured leg and damage to both hands. …

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