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Blind war veterans, 97, vow to live out their days together after finding love again | UK News



Two blind war veterans have found love again in their 90s and vowed to live out their days together.

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead, both 97, celebrated their new-found romance with a ceremony at the Blind Veterans UK’s chapel in Ovingdean, near Brighton, on Wednesday.

The pair, who both served in the Second World War, met at the sight loss charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in May 2018.

The happy couple live together on the premises.

Mr Van Zeller proposed in November and the pair decided to make a formal commitment to each other surrounded by family and friends.

They held hands throughout the service, which had all the hallmarks of a wedding but without the legalities.

Peter Van Zeller and Nancy Bowstead met in March 2018
Mr Van Zeller and Ms Bowstead met in March 2018

Mr Van Zeller said he fell in love as soon as he met Mrs Bowstead, adding: “This lady came and sat next to me in the lounge after dinner.

“She definitely had a spark about her and we hit it off immediately.

“Until I met Nancy, I hadn’t realised how lonely I’d really been since my wife died. We just want to live and be happy together for a very long time.”

Mrs Bowstead joked that Mr Van Zeller was “a little grumpy at first” before they got chatting, adding: “It was just like an electric shock.

“We now live just four doors down from each other so I can go and visit him whenever I wish.

“He proposed because he wanted to make sure I didn’t go off with another man. There are a lot more men than women here.

“It is a dream come true to know that I could be treasured and feel loved by someone as wonderful as Peter after many years alone. It really has been a miracle and we love each other to bits.”

The new couple each lost their sight much later in life – both due to glaucoma.

Mrs Bowstead had two strokes while Mr Van Zeller also had macular degeneration.

Peter Van Zeller served in the Second World War
Peter Van Zeller served as a pilot and infantry officer during the war

Clare Callanan, the charity’s chaplain, officiated at the service which included prayers, readings, favourite hymns picked by the couple and a declaration of their love where they made promises to honour each other.

They marked their love and friendship by exchanging rings.

Describing them as a “beautiful” couple, she said: “Peter and Nancy have found a mutual love, respect and understanding with each other and that is something that should be celebrated.

“This example of commitment is a blessing to all of us as part of the Blind Veterans UK family.”

After the service the pair laughed and joked together as they gathered outside for photographs while they were showered with confetti.

Mrs Bowstead said it was “wonderful”, adding: “We want to live forever and enjoy our time together. We’ve had a lot to face in our lives and we just want to enjoy each other’s company.

“We are looking forward to doing all sorts of things together.

“We are so happy. This is home, Ovingdean is home.”

Nancy Bowstead served on a gun site in Swansea during the Second World War
Nancy Bowstead served on a gun site in Swansea during the Second World War

Mr Van Zeller, who was born in London but grew up in Inverness, joined the Royal Air Force aged 18 and trained as a pilot.

He went to fly a Westland Whirlwind fighter jet in the 263 squadron protecting convoys of cargo vessels at sea.

He left after two years when a friend who piloted his plane while he was on leave crashed and died.

Mr Van Zeller joined the army in December 1943, being sent to Sword Beach in Normandy in June 1944.

He served in the Somerset Light Infantry which arrived about a week after the D-Day landings.

Mr Van Zeller was shot in the right arm by a sniper aged 23 during an assault on the French town of Villers-Bocage.

His wife Betty died in 2012 aged 89.

Mrs Bowstead, born in Widnes, Cheshire, left home at the age of 17 to joing the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), training at Lancaster and Oswestry.

Mrs Bowstead was taught at Harrogate and Edinburgh and was commissioned as an officer in 1943.

She then served on a gun site in Swansea for the rest of the war and was discharged as a subaltern in 1948.

The war veteran has two children and her husband Derek died in 2013 aged 89.

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