Team of blind veterans take part in the pace stick championships

The Bradford Sea Cadets team
The Bradford Sea Cadets team
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A TEAM OF blind veterans from Bradford Sea Cadets has come fourth in the World Pace Stick Championships, a competition normally only open to fully-sighted military teams.

This is the first year that a civilian team has been allowed to enter, and the fact that the team was blind has made history - and is being examined to to see if it qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records.

The Royal Regiment of Artillery claim to be the originators of the pace stick.

It was used by field gun teams to ensure correct distances between the guns.

The pace stick was more like a walking stick, with a silver or ivory knob.

From the beginning the infantry developed the pace stick as an aid to drill.

Petty Officer (SCC) Steve Birkin RN Ret was in the Royal Navy for 12 years and served in the Gulf War.

The team comprises three blind ex-servicemen, plus one sighted sergeant who is still serving in the Coldstream Guards.

All the teams have to reach a required standard and the Blind Veterans qualified after knocking a Grenadier Guards team out of the running.

There were a total of 25 teams includes ones from Australia, Bahrain and Jordan.

Following the championships, the team led the armed forces down the Mall for the Queen’s birthday parade.

PO Birkin said “Her Majesty is patron of Blind Veterans UK and I was told later that we were the only team she actually stood for and clapped: I felt immensely proud.”

The Blind Veterans hope to be taking part in a display in the Royal Albert Hall later in the year.

Then they start practicing again for next year’s championships which Petty Officer Birkin says they intend to win. PO Birkin joined Bradford Sea Cadets shortly after leaving the Royal Navy where, despite losing his sight, he still takes classes and is an active member of the volunteer staff.