A blind Second World War veteran has taken to the slopes for the first time – just two days after his 96th birthday.
Gordon Mills, of Edinburgh, had his first ever ski lesson at Midlothian Snowsports Centre on Tuesday in a trip arranged by charity Scottish War Blinded.
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.”
Gordon 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) and joined Scottish War Blinded in 2014. The charity gives free support to ex-service men and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service. But Gordon’s sight loss hasn’t stopped him living an adventure-packed life – trying hot air ballooning, paragliding and flying in a glider.
A regular attendee of Scottish War Blinded’s activity hub, the Linburn Centre in West Lothian, he first suggested trying skiing to Centre Officer, Caroline O’Hara.
Caroline said: “He was quite determined that he wanted to try skiing so we set it up for him. Gordon is a real inspiration – our very own James Bond. He’s also a truly lovely person and I’m so glad he was able to tick this activity off his bucket list.”
Gordon was instructed by Lauren Henderson, instructor for Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK).
Lauren 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.”
Last year Gordon also took on a 70ft abseil at the Edinburgh Indoor Climbing Area. Now he is looking forward to trying off-road 4×4 driving with Scottish War Blinded, as well as going up in a glider once again.
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 actually 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’.