AN ex-serviceman blinded in battle has spoken exclusively to reporter Alexandra Barham about the horrors of war and the trials and tribulations of life that followed without sight.

Enlisted into the armed forces during the uprising in Kenya in the 1950's, Mike Tetley believed those years would be the most challenging of his life.

That was until the then 23-year-old was hit by a bullet during conflict which deprived him of his sight and condemned him to an existence without a fundamental faculty.

Just months after Mike, of Cunningham Hill Road, St Albans, now 78, graduated from Johannesburg University as a structural enginner, Kenyan rebels, known as the Mau Mau, revolted against British colonial rule.

Mike, who was born and raised in Kenya speaking its native language Swahili, was conscripted to command indigenous troops in the King's African Rifles as unrest began to spread throughout his homeland.

It was after Mau Mau militants ambushed a police truck that a battle erupted between the rivals.

A clash Mike so vividly recalls as it marked the last time he could appreciate the gift of sight before it was lost.

Remembering the battle, Mike said: "One of the Mau Mau threw a grenade at me and it landed by my foot. I jumped away from it and threw myself on the ground hoping that when it went off I wouldn't get hit.

"The next thing I remember I was running flat out and I got a bullet in my right ear which came out of my right eye.

"My dad always said I didn't have anything between my ears and now he's got definite proof.

"The next thing I remember I fell over and as I picked myself up everything went black. I sat down and I can't remember much more than that - not in a logical sense anyway."

Dissatisfied with blasting their victim with a rifle - nearly killing him - the Mau Mau rebels returned armed with machetes to cut up Mike, who lay helpless on the ground nursing his wound. Powerless to defend himself, Mike has always owed his survival to an ally soldier, Reguton - with whom he still has regular contact - who shot dead the seven rebels.

"I was on the ground and they came forward with guns and knives and they tried to cut me up," he said "Reguton had his gun and shot them and killed them. He killed seven of them from 25 yards - that's very good shooting, particularly when you've only got 28 bullets in a magazine. From 25 yards he would have had three bullets for each person until they were on top of him - I'm very indebted to him."

For Mike, vivid scenes of massacre and torture remain poignant in his memory. Images of bloodshed to which Mike was repeatedly exposed before he lost his sight have proved impossible to dispel from his mind.

More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians are known to have been murdered by the Mau Mau. Many of the murders of which they were guilty were brutal in the extreme and Mike recalled just one of the savage killings.

"I was walking back to my tent and there was a 12-year-old girl in the middle of the road with her throat cut. There was a note next to her which read 'We're not frightened of you, we'll take you on, the army and the police. It was signed Corporal Kanwemba of the Mau Mau."

Mike was transferred to a military hospital in England after the attack where he received the devastating news that he would never see again.

Just a week before the shooting Mike had asked for his girlfriend's hand in marriage, but following doctors' gloomy prognosis he broke off the engagement.

"After I was blinded I never thought I could look after a wife," he said. "I didn't think I would be able to look after myself let alone anyone else - it's one of my biggest regrets."

But anxious not to allow his disability to blight the years ahead of him, Mike began learning the art of braille at St Dunstan's, a national charity for the blind.

Soon after Mike enrolled on a physiotherapy course with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) suggested by his dad who felt the career suited his structural interests. It was during his training that he met his late wife Selma, and the couple eventually married in 1957.

For the past 45 years Mike has been running a thriving physiotherapy clinic at his St Albans home and he remains committed to his work.

"I'm still working now, he said. "I think it's a daft idea to retire - I can't see any point of just waiting to die."

Braille is central to his work, keeping all records and appointments, and using a specially designed organiser, known as a Braille and Speak, for all his correspondence.

Other handy gadgets helping Mike run his clinic include a nifty mobile phone which scans and translates written documents such as letters into the spoken word. His guide dogs, Wendy and Chad, are another valuable source of help around the house.

"I still get very frustrated, but you must dwell on what you can do not what you can't do otherwise you can become unhappy," he said.

"A blind man once told me 'when you look back and see what you have accomplished you will never believe what you did in retrospect'."

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is celebrating 200 years of braille this year.