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Dramatic Society

The dramatic society kept our veterans in good spirits during WWII when the charity had moved to Church Stretton in Shropshire for safety.

The Dramatic Society performing 'High Tension'

During our Church Stretton days, the success of the dramatic society was helped along considerably by then-famous actor Edmond Knight. Before and after he was a blind veteran receiving support from Blind Veterans UK, he enjoyed a successful stage and film career. He was a very accomplished actor, rising to fame in a notable production of Hamlet with Laurence Olivier and starring in Alfred Hitchcock's Waltzes from Vienna.

At the outbreak of WWII, he began to act in propaganda films of the time such as This England.  Keen to join the armed forces, Knight was accepted for Naval training in 1940. He served in the rank of Lieutenant on HMS Prince of Wales and in 1941 they received orders to pursue two German battleships. During the battle, debris hit Knight in the face, blinding him. He completely lost one eye and the other was severely damaged.

A medical officer chose to send Knight, not to Liverpool Eye Hospital but instead to Blind Veterans UK in Church Stretton (which was then St Dunstans.) He was officially admitted into the charity on 19th August 1941. While at Church Stretton, Knight re-learned many life skills such as typing from Tommy Rodgers, a WWI veteran (see image below.)

25. Braille Typewriter

Losing his sight was a huge knock to Knight's confidence but it was during his time at Church Stretton when he found himself again. When he returned for his first visit home for Christmas since becoming a blind veteran, he was positively boyant. Through appearing on stage for the first time since his injury in a performance of 'High Tension', a play written specifically for Blind Veterans UK by Clemence Dane, Knight had rekindled his love of acting. He actually found that he was less nervous on stage!

Knight wrote an article about his acting experience at Blind Veterans UK for The Review. In this article he said "the nerves which had habitually beset one in sighted days seemed completely to evaporate." This experience helped Knight to return to an acting career after the war, one which would continue until the end of his life in 1987. Knight makes reference to radio plays in his article, saying that for him they are "quite the most satisfying form of theatre available today." He outlines the difficulties for the vision impaired for moving around the stage, and that radio plays allow the actors to focus more on speech than movement.