‘Age and loss of vision have got the better of me - but I’m not done helping the legion,’ says Nancy, 93

Afternoon tea for Nancy Bowstead an RBL member for 70 years. Ref shs 6853-21-15TI. Picture: Terry If

Afternoon tea for Nancy Bowstead an RBL member for 70 years. Ref shs 6853-21-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A registered blind Royal British Legion (RBL) stalwart of seven decades is saying goodbye to Sidmouth - but will continue to raise money for the cause at the age of 93.

World War Two veteran Nancy Bowstead, who is moving to Burnham-on-Sea to live in a residential home, was bade a special farewell this week.

Friends, family and colleagues hosted a surprise party on Monday to celebrate Nancy’s 70 years of hard work for the RBL.

She said: “Sidmouth is a beautiful place - I am sorry to be leaving but age and loss of vision have got the better of me.”

“I am going to continue [her RBL work]. When I go to Burnham-on-Sea I am going to get in touch with the local branch and say ‘here I am, what can I do?’. I’m not done with it yet.

“As long as there are wars, we will need the Royal British Legion.”

Nancy first became involved with the RBL with her husband, Derek, in the 1960s.

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The couple, who wed in 1949, worked for the Poppy Appeal selling door-to-door, raising thousands of pounds.

Nancy continued the work when she moved to Sidmouth 11 years ago and has organised sponsored walks along The Esplanade for residents over the age of 90.

Nancy has even been asked by Blind Veterans UK to record her memories for a book.

She joined the army when she was 20, serving from 1942 to 1948 in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) - shooting down airborne enemies as they flew over South Wales. Nancy held the rank of war substantive subaltern.

She recalled happy and sad times, and told the Herald: “I had been engaged twice - both were killed in the war.

“Harry was killed in Singapore.

“Patrick was a glider pilot. I can still remember him in his uniform, he took my hand in his and said: ‘Nancy, I do love you. When I come back, if we are still whole and you still want me, will you marry me?’.

“I never knew what happened to him, like a lot of young men. But I shall sit quietly in my room and I shall think about the people I knew and the happy times.”

The Sidmouth branch of the RBL presented Nancy with a certificate and poppy brooch.

Chairman Dave O’Connor said: “She will be severely missed by the branch. She came up with some fantastic ideas and is a tremendous lady.”

President Kim Smith, 95, told Nancy: “We were all young together in the war, but you have carried that spirit right on through your life.

“We are so sorry that you should now be moving away from Sidmouth.

“We are proud to have worked beside you.”