Now you see it, now you don't! Could it be magic?
In the late 1940s, a few of our blind veterans developed a slightly unusual curiosity - magic tricks! They wanted to make things mysteriously appear and disappear, show that objects could defy the force of gravity, and have conversations with dolls!
Back in 1947, The Institute of Magicians kindly offered their services to tutor blind veterans in the art of magic tricks. Alt Wiltshire was one of the keener members to take up this offer. Alf had served in the First World War, came to us in 1927 and trained as a telephonist, and went on to a successful career in this occupation. However, by autumn 1947 he was thinking of retiring from his job and becoming a serious magician so we provided him with funds to buy 'magician's articles.' Alf was trained by the very best, Zomah, the president of The Intuition of Magicians. Zomah took him under his wing and Alf became the David Copperfield of the 40s!
By June 1948 two of our blind veterans had also succeeded in their training and they took part in a public variety show at Benfleet, Essex. It was reported in the Review that 'Smudger' Smith and 'Welsh wizard' Rees Warren both 'gave an excellent performance'. The tricks included drawing handkerchiefs from empty boxes, card tricks and placing tumblers on books and turning them upside down.
Throughout the next few years further public performances were held at our headquarters and at the Institute of Magicians. Individual veterans also took their acts to fundraising events for the charity. The Institute of Magicians sadly came to an end in 1965, although attempts were made to revive it in the 1980s.
'Above Rottingdean the new villas began: pipe-dream architecture: up on the downs the obscure skeleton of a nursing home, winged like an aeroplane' (Graham Greene, Brighton Rock, 1938)
Among the many sporting activities blind veterans took part in while at Regent's Park was the classic game of tug of war!
In December 1915, The Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Gift book was
in aid of Blind Veterans UK.