Blind war veteran celebrates 96th birthday with skiing lesson

Gordon Mills with instructor Lauren Henderson and wife Yvonne. Picture: Toby Williams
Gordon Mills with instructor Lauren Henderson and wife Yvonne. Picture: Toby Williams
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A BLIND Second World War veteran has celebrated his 96th birthday in style by having his first ever ski lesson in the Capital.

Gordon Mills took to the slopes at Midlothian Sports Centre on Tuesday to complete his latest extreme challenge, which has also seen him trying hot air ballooning, paragliding and flying in a glider.

Adrenaline junkie Gordon, who lives in Edinburgh, served in the Royal Air Force from 1941-46, taking part in the Burma Campaign.

He was later attached to the Navy and then served in 300 Parachute Squadron of the Royal Engineers (TA).

The great-grandfather of six began to lose his sight around 20 years ago due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but it has not stopped him living an action-packed lifestyle.

Gordon said: “It was a little harder than I imagined, but extremely worthwhile. I enjoyed it very much.

“My lack of sight was a bit of a challenge, but the feeling was quite amazing.”

The trip was arranged by Scottish War Blinded, a charity that gives free support to ex-service men and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

Gordon was instructed by Lauren Henderson, instructor for Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK), who was pleasantly surprised at Gordon’s skills.

She said: “He was absolutely brilliant. Gordon is the oldest person DSUK has ever instructed. I was so impressed.

“To try skiing for the first time at 96 is an incredible thing and he really rose to the challenge.”

Gordon also took on a 70ft abseil at the Edinburgh Indoor Climbing Area last year.

Now he is looking forward to trying off-road 4x4 driving with Scottish War Blinded, as well as going up in a glider once again. The pensioner is a firm believer that age is just a number and that you can’t let it stop you having a good time.

Gordon’s wife, Yvonne, aged 74, described her husband as an “adrenaline junkie”. She said: “Nothing fazes him. He’s more afraid of wasps than he is of extreme sports. I know I’m his wife but I think he is quite remarkable, you would never know how little sight he has.

“He says that when he’s up in the air he can make out more with his peripheral vision than he can when he’s on the ground.

“It’s fantastic that Scottish War Blinded can support its members to do these things.

“The doctors say that it’s activities like this that keep him young – I think it’s having a younger wife.”

Gordon added: “If you’re fit enough you’ve got to go after what you want to do – you can’t let age stop you.

“It’s like what George Mallory said when questioned why he wanted to climb Mount Everest – ‘because it’s there’.”