A World War 2 veteran and media commentator has spoken out about his new found freedom after struggling with reduced mobility.
Ninety seven-year-old former paratrooper and rifleman Victor Gregg from Swanmore in Hampshire, survived the horrific and controversial allied bomb attack on the historic German city of Dresden in 1945. Victor, then 26, was held prisoner by Germans after being sentenced to death for burning down the factory where he was working as punishment for trying to escape his POW camp. While there, he was caught in the Dresden bomb attack.
Seventy years on, Victor and his wife Bett (84) have begun struggling with their mobility, feeling trapped in their home town despite both using mobility scooters.
“We cover miles each week on our mobility scooters but have been forced to stay local because lifting the heavy scooters into the car to travel further afield is impossible at our age,” Victor explains. “We love our days out but you can’t get far if you can’t get your scooters into the car. We’re both in good health and the last thing we wanted was to lose the freedom of choosing where we go and when we go.”
Victor and Bett saw an advert for Autochair, a company created by disabled engineer David Walker who was paralysed in an accident in 1975. Frustrated by the lack of mobility products, David used his engineering expertise to design and build a hoist to lift his wheelchair into the back of his car. Within months, he was inundated with requests for bespoke hoists and in 1983, David’s ideas were put into production and his specialist hoist company Autochair, was born.
“The Autochair hoists are an incredible feat of engineering. We have an Olympian model fitted and it instantly gave us the freedom to take our scooters anywhere we want in the country!” Victor explains. “After my experiences in life, freedom is everything and is not something I’m prepared to loose just because I’m in my 90s.”
Victor’s eye witness account of the brutal and controversial slaughter of German civilians is told through his book The Rifleman: A Front Line Life, with an ebook account of his experience in Dresden entitled Dresden, A Survivor’s Story. After receiving huge acclaim, Victor went on to write Kings Cross Kid – a tale of childhood between the wars and Soldier Spy: A Survivors Tale which tells of Victor’s post-war life, involving M15, M16 and the KGB.
“Since writing my books about my experiences in the war, I never know where or when I might be asked to go for my next interview. Autochair’s hoist means that where I go, my scooter goes too,” Victor added.
“It took me over 40 years to get over what I saw at Dresden and it still haunts me to this day. But I’ve made sure I’ve lived a full life ever since and I wasn’t going to let my reduced mobility stop me doing what I want. With our new Olympian hoist, Bett and I have the freedom to travel wherever we want to go again. And that is absolutely priceless.”
Victor Gregg is the author of Rifleman, Dresden, King’s Cross Kid and Soldier, Spy available through http://www.bloomsbury.com/author/victor-gregg/ with proceeds going to charities including Help the Heroes. Soldier Spy was released in paperback on Thursday 3 November 2016.