Blesma, The Limbless Veterans
|Purpose||Supporting wounded and limbless British Armed Forces servicemen and women|
Chief Executive Officer
|Barry Le Grys, MBE|
Blesma, The Limbless Veterans (formerly known as the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association) helps all serving and ex-Service men and women who have lost limbs, or lost the use of limbs or eyes, to rebuild their lives by providing rehabilitation activities and welfare support. It operates throughout the United Kingdom and is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (number 1084189).
In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, the limbless gathered together in groups determined if society would not help them, they would help themselves.
The first such group gathered in Glasgow in the early 1920s, creating the first branch of the Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association. This was closely followed by branches being formed in Edinburgh, Dundee, Hamilton and Aberdeen. Officers of the Scottish LESMA established contacts with limbless ex-Servicemen in the North of England in the late 1920s. A branch was formed in Manchester in 1929 and about the same time branches were formed in Leeds, Hull, Burnley, Accrington, Southport, Oldham, Bradford, Halifax and Wigan.
The English branches however, soon became dissatisfied with the Scottish control and asked for a proper Constitution and Rules to provide for the democratic election of Officers and members of an Executive Council. The English branches convened at a Round Table meeting in Leeds in 1931 where it was decided to form the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association, with the first Annual Conference being held in Manchester in 1932.
Blesma was granted Armorial Bearings in 1958 by the College of Arms. They consist of a shield with a blue ground (representing peace) on which is a sun, for the ‘place in the sun’ the Association seeks to secure for its Members. On the sun is placed a cross potent – an ancient heraldic form associated with the Crusades, particularly with the Crusaders’ Kingdom of Jerusalem. This is composed of four crutch-heads in the colours of the services – blue for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and red for the Army and the Royal Marines. These are joined together to represent limbless service personnel from the four services united in the Association. Potent is the Old English word for a crutch or walking staff. The Motto is ‘Service and Fortitude’.
To become a Blesma Member the individual must have served in the British Armed Forces and have lost a limb(s), or lost the use of limbs or eyes. Blesma also helps veterans who have suffered their injury out of service. Once a Member the organisation provides lifetime support for the veteran and their family.
The benefits of Membership
||This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. (April 2015)|
Fellowship Members have helped each other since the first days of Blesma. This lies at the heart of what the charity does and applies knowledge of Members’ experiences; of traumatic injury, recuperation and eventual stability. There is also a Welfare Team who offer precise professional support when it is needed.
Prosthetics Blesma does not pay for Members’ prosthetics, but they do help prosthetists develop their skills at undergraduate and PhD level. They also work closely with the NHS to ensure the latest advances in the relevant medical fields are converted into practical solutions that can benefit all Members.
Advice Blesma are experts in the War Pension and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), as well as a whole range of other allowances. Their team of regional Blesma Support Officers offer advice and assistance on applications for entitlements, benefits and allowances and aid Members and Widows at War Pension Tribunals and AFCS Hearings.
Grants Blesma offers Members financial assistance with the additional costs and hardships of disability. They regularly contribute to the provision of wheelchairs, stair lifts, and home and garden adaptations so that they can remain as mobile and independent as possible.
Employment Since inception, Blesma has campaigned successive governments for equal employment rights, opportunities and practices. Today, they still strive to help Members find fulfilling employment.
Independent advocacy We believe prosthetics and disabled provision should meet the needs of every individual Member. Our advocacy networking to local and national representatives ensures this is the case.
Members’ activities Staying active after injury is essential to continued health and well-being. Activities and courses range from the cerebral to the adrenaline-fuelled, and are specifically targeted at Members’ needs.
After the Great War of 1914-18 a group of limbless veterans in Glasgow formed the very first branch of the Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association in 1921. Soon others formed in Edinburgh, Dundee, Hamilton and Aberdeen. It was not until 1929 that English branches came into being in Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Burnley, Bradford and several other northern towns and cities. In 1932 they banded together and became a national charity – British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association – BLESMA. It was not until the commencement of World War II that branches formed in the South of England but by the end of the war they numbered 43, although the majority were still based in Scotland and the North of England. The number of branches reached their peak in the mid-1950s when there were a total of 124. As the number of surviving veterans from the Great War reduced, so did the number of branches. This trend continued with the passing of the World War II generation of Members and today only 13 branches remain.
The Elizabeth Frankland Moore Home is Blesma’s heartbeat. Situated on Lytham Road, in a pleasant suburb of South Blackpool just a stone’s throw from the Promenade, it has been a home-from-home for Members since it opened its doors in 1949. It’s comfortable and spacious, with expert care for its 20 residents and space for another 20 visitors on themed weeks. The Home has provided exciting adventure breaks, quiet holidays, and first-class residential care, depending on what is required by the individual. Packed full of life, love, and barely-believable stories, nothing embodies Blesma’s spirit more than the Blackpool Home.
The Blesma Home provides accommodation alongside 24-hour nursing and residential care for people who, even with help, are unable to live in their own home. The Home has received excellent reports from the Care Quality Commission and Blackpool Council Environmental Health for Food Hygiene, and has twice been awarded Gold Investors in People and Beacon status award from the Gold Standards Framework.
The accommodation facilities are of a very high standard. All residents have their own fully furnished en-suite rooms, with satellite TV and Wi-Fi. Twin en-suite rooms are available for Members with partners seeking respite care. The Home has its own bar, The Legless Arms, which is open every day.
1932 – Blesma formed as a national charity, first annual conference held in Manchester.
1945 – Blesmag started (October).
1946 – Blesma Advisory Council formed.
1947 – Charles Dunham appointed Employment and Welfare Officer.
1948 – Blesma National Appeal Committee formed.
Duchess of Gloucester becomes Patron of Blesma.
1949 – Cyril Stephens appointed National President in succession to Arthur Baxter.
Blesma Headquarters Welfare Committee formed.
Official opening of the Blackpool Home.
1951 – Blesma All-Party Committee of MPs formed.
1954 – Opening of Blesma Portsmouth Home.
1958 – Transfer of Blesma HQ from Manchester to Cannon Street, London.
Charles Dunham appointed National General Secretary.
Grant of Armorial Bearings to Blesma.
1959 – Number of First World War limbless drops below 20,000.
1963 – Opening of Blesma Crieff Home.
Blesma joins World Veterans Foundation.
1965 – Blesma HQ moved to Chadwell Heath, Essex.
1966 – Amputees Advisory Service for hospital visiting introduced by Blesma.
Recommendations of McCorquodale Committee accepted.
1970 – Funds raised by Blesma National Appeal Committee passes £1million mark.
1975 – Philip Dixon appointed National Chairman in succession to Ernie Law.
Portsmouth Home closed.
First World War limbless drops below 4,000.
1976 – Members ascend Mount Snowdon with HRH Prince Charles.
1977 – Blesma welfare grants annually exceed £50,000.
1978 – Blesma film ‘So Much To Offer’ released, with commentary by Kenneth More.
Blesma float joins the Lord Mayors Show in central London.
1979 – Hrubec/Ryder report on amputations and cardio-vascular disorder published and accepted by the Government.
1980 – Mr Ted Lawrence takes over as National Welfare Officer.
1981 – Mr Brian Fox takes over as National General Secretary.
Limbless ex-servicemen down to about 10,000.
Himalayan peak of Nun Kun (23,410 ft) climbed by Ealing Member, Norman Croucher.
1982 – Blesma Golden Jubilee.
1983 – Sir Austin ‘Tiny’ Bunch CBE takes over as National President.
1989 – Ray Holland takes over as National General Secretary.
1992 – HRH Duke of Westminster takes over as National President.
2000 – Jerome Church OBE takes over as National General Secretary.
2013 – General Secretary role changes to Chief Executive.
2013- Race2recovery become the first and only motorsport team with combat injured members to twice enter and complete the Dakar Rally
2014 – A team of adventures including Blesma Member Nick Beighton become the first ever team to travel from Land's End to John O'Groats in a straight line.
2014- On 21 January 2014 a Row2Recovery crew of two amputee soldiers, alongside two able-bodied, successfully rowed the 3,000 miles across the Atlantic unsupported. Two years before, another Row2Recovery crew with four injured servicemen, alongside two able-bodied, rowed the Atlantic raising over £1million for military charities
2014 – Barry Le Grys MBE takes over as Chief Executive.
Blesma rebrand. Renaming of charity from BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association) to Blesma, The Limbless Veterans.
2014 – A team of four Blesma Members become the first all amputee team to swim the English Channel.
1932-1938 Sam Doubleday
1938-1949 Arthur Baxter OBE
1949-1956 Cyril Stephens OBE
1956-1983 Earl of Ancaster KCVO
1983-1992 Sir Austin ‘Tiny’ Bunch CBE
1992–present Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster
National General Secretaries
1934-1937 J V Bell
1937-1958 George Chandley OBE MM
1958-1980 Charles Dunham MBE
1981-1989 Brian Fox
1989-2000 Ray Holland
2000-2014 Jerome Church OBE
Title changed to Chief Executive from 2013
2014–present Barry Le Grys MBE