A MAN who was blown up by the IRA has hailed the work of a blind veterans’ charity who “gave him his life back”.

Ray Hazan, OBE, who lost his hand as well as his sight when a parcel bomb exploded while serving in Northern Ireland in 1973, paid tribute to Blind Veterans UK as he unveiled a community garden at their centre in Ovingdean.

He said: “They gave me my life back again when we thought that life had come to an end.

“You’re lying in hospital thinking where are we going from here?

“And suddenly they pick you up and give you your life back in trumps.

“I’ve had experiences which are once in a lifetime that I would never ever have experienced without Blind Veterans UK.”

The charity, which was established in 1915 to help servicemen wounded in First World War, opened its Ovingdean centre 80 years ago this year, and Mayor of Brighton and Hove Dee Simpson joined Mr Hazan and others to celebrate the anniversary.

Ms Simpson said: “BlindVeterans UK has been here for 80 years now and it’s such an important part of the community.

“The services it delivers both to local people as well as to people from all around the country is outstanding.

“There’s a lovely family feel here and I know that the city is really really lucky to have had this centre here for such a long time.”

The garden, which features a registered war memorial and a scented herb garden, was originally installed in Hampden Court Palace in Richmond on Thames, before it was painstakingly recreated at the Ovingdean centre.

Leslie Gavern, manager of the centre, said the ceremony was about celebrating the work the charity has done, and the links it has with the community.

She said: “I think the sense of community that you can feel both inside and outside the centre is very special.

“We used to be known as ‘the house on the hill’’ but I think in recent years the way we’ve engaged with people living in the area has been really good.

“We’ve got members living in Ovingdean, and Brighton, our service users enjoy day trips into the city and all our volunteers are local residents.

“We make a commitment for life to all of our members, so the fact that the centre has endured for so long is no surprise. The members help each other, support each other. They are a vital part of our service.”

Blind Veterans UK looks after more than 5,000 members in the UK, but the charity’s own research suggests there may be more than 68,000 blind veterans nationally.