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Gaby Deslys' Hat

"In those days, it was no uncommon thing for Royalties and other personages and celebrities to visit St. Dunstan's."

Gaby Desly's Hat

Throughout our history we have been treated from visits by many a celebrity and notable figure. In 1917 we were visited by French ballerina, singer and performer Gaby Deslys to present a prize at one of our dancing competitions in Regent's Park. At the time, Gaby Deslys was extremely famous worldwide so naturally this was an exciting occasion for all involved.

Gaby Desly's was known who her impressive array of hats and she sported one of these creations when she came to visit us to judge the dancing competition and join in with the festivities after.

Gaby & Group

(Gaby Deslys and blind veterans in Regent's Park)

The blind veteran Alan Nichols was the proud winner of the dance competition and recipient of the prize. He has already featured in our 100 objects series as the veteran who cycled from London to Brighton on a tandem bike. In his book 'Sons of Victory: 1914 to 1918' he recounts dancing with Gaby Deslys after the competition had finished.

It was a great achievement for Alan to be up and dancing at this event because just one month before he had undergone surgery for residual shrapnel wounds from battle.

In the opening pages of his book Alan said:

"I hope to explain how and why it has been possible for. me - blinded and handless - to have accomplished so much in the way of surmounting difficulties which to the average person might appear insurmountable; but (in undying gratitude let it be said) I could have achieved nothing had I not had the support, guidance, and example of that Great Man, the late Sir Arthur Pearson, Founder of St. Dunstan's."