Thomas Waldin, a 19-year-old from a working class
area of Birmingham in the English
Midlands, volunteered for the British Army in the
spring of 1915, and was sent to Ypres to fight on
the Western Front. However, after only six months
in the trenches, his luck ran out when he was blown
up by shellfire. He was taken to hospital, where his
wounds were adjudged to be so serious that he
was left for dead. However, he refused to die and
survived, terribly wounded and blinded in both eyes.
When despair threatened to overwhelm him, he
was thrown a lifeline by Arthur Pearson, who
offered him a place at St Dunstan’s (a hostel
situated on the edge of London’s Regent’s Park,
which Pearson had created for blinded servicemen
– not only from Britain, but from the British Empire
– shortly after the onset of the war). Waldin now
set off on the long road to recovery until finally, and
against all the odds, he won his ultimate battle and
achieved ‘Victory over Blindness’.
There were many who were seriously wounded
and blinded in World War I, but this account is
unique, in that the author, Andrew Norman, knew
this hero at first hand – Thomas Waldin was his
grandfather. However, when Andrew was a child
‘Tom’s’ blindness was a taboo subject, and all he was
told was that ‘it was something to do with the war’.
Only now has the author managed, after years of
‘detective’ work, to discover the truth about his
The journey of discovery has been a
fascinating one, a journey where the unimaginable
horror of the trenches is in poignant contrast to
the supreme courage and determination of one
who survived it.
Andrew Norman was born in
Newbury, Berkshire and educated at
Thornhill High School, Gwelo, Southern
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and at
St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read
animal physiology. In December 1970,
he graduated in medicine from the
Radcliffe Infirmary and entered into
general practice in Poole, Dorset. In
1983 he sustained a back injury which
forced him to give up his medical career;
he is now a full-time writer.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 088 6, hardback, 210x148mm, 168 pages. Published June 2011.