News on H4H cycle ride - May 09


Book Reviewer

Help for Heroes takes to the road

By Victoria King
BBC News

On Sunday, 240 cyclists set out to pedal 350 miles across France. The journey is a challenge for all those taking part, but especially for several of the riders who were wounded while serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The servicemen - and the rest of their two-wheeled colleagues - are trying to raise a large sum of money for forces' charity Help for Heroes.

Their trip from Portsmouth will take them all the way to Paris and will hopefully beat last year's total of £1.4m.

Co-founder of Help the Heroes Bryn Parry told the BBC News website: "It's so inspiring, cycling along beside these guys.

"They have shown unbelievable courage, but they don't expect anything for it. They don't want sympathy, they just want opportunities. They just want to be normal."

'Breathing space'

Help for Heroes was created in 2007 and has so far raised more than £20m, some £8m of which has gone to build a new swimming pool and gym complex at Headley Court forces' rehabilitation centre in Surrey.
“ I'm trying to make people see that servicemen and women are the same people today as they were in 1944 ”
Bryn Parry, Help for Heroes

Bryn is hoping funds raised by the Band of Brothers bike ride will make a significant dent in the next £20m - needed to build seven Hero Recovery Centres at garrison towns across the UK.

These "half-way houses", as he calls them, will have space for 20 servicemen or women at a time and the first will open in Edinburgh in August.

"We want to give injured personnel some breathing space," he said. "When they've been to Headley Court, but aren't ready to go back to their battalion or civilian life.

"It'll be a really nice, warm environment. Each person will have their own room, their own bathroom. There'll be carers on hand in case they need anything.

"Then every day each resident will have an individually tailored programme, depending on their personal ambition or injury.

"They might want to carry on in the military, say as a clerk, so they'll go back into the garrison for re-skilling. Others, who want to move on, will be given the chance to do work experience or take part in off-site training.

"The idea is that it will be a place of transit, where they can be helped back to life, whether it be civilian or military."

Reservist Trooper Adam Cocks is one of those cycling the route. The 26-year-old, from Parsons Green in south-west London, is a member of the Territorial Army.

He will take part in the ride using a hand bike - pedalling with his arms not his legs - because of injuries he suffered in Afghanistan.

Adam said: "I've been training with the hand bike for about eight weeks, but the hills are still going to be an absolute killer.

"I'm determined to get up them unaided though."

While on operations in Afghanistan in 2007, Adam's vehicle struck a mine and his leg was severely damaged. Since then he has endured eight operations and is still not able to use it properly.

"When I came back from Afghanistan I knew I wanted to do something for Help the Heroes," he said. "It's such a great charity and produces real tangible results.

"I think the recovery centres are vital. They'll be a stepping stone and hopefully help people cope with the mental injuries as well as the physical ones."

Pegasus Bridge

Just a couple of weeks before the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the race has added poignancy because it takes in some key World War II battle sites.

Leaving Portsmouth, the riders were waved off by actor Ross Kemp, who has recently become a patron of Help for Heroes and has spent extended periods with British troops in Afghanistan.

Once on French soil, they will wind their way to Paris via a number of battlefield sites, paying tribute to the different Allied nations as they go.

Remembering the Americans, they will visit Omaha beach, scene of the D-Day landings.

On British Day, they will enjoy a spectacular fly-past before heading to Pegasus Bridge, where the first house to be liberated from the Germans in June 1944 still stands.

There the cyclists will be accompanied across the bridge by pipers and a bugler sounding The Advance.

Days four and five of the trip will remember the Canadian, Polish and French efforts and will involve former members of the French resistance.

Bryn says he wants people to be proud of both the more distant and more recent contributions to Britain's Armed Forces.

"I'm trying to make people see that servicemen and women are the same people today as they were in 1944," he said.

"All those qualities - like determination, humour, valour, bravery - that we think of as belonging to a lost generation are still alive and well.

"One guy said to me on last year's ride, 'Look, I'm not disabled, I just haven't got an arm.' It's that sort of attitude."
A team of former patients and current staff from DMRC Headley Court are taking part.

To sponsor them
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Book Reviewer


SERGEANT Major Andrew Newell yesterday compared battle scars with Normandy veteran John Painter after Help for Heroes bike riders reached the D-Day beaches.

Paratrooper Andrew, 41, is among 300 riders making a 350-mile trek from Cherbourg to Paris.

The bone in his upper arm was shattered by a bullet in Afghanistan in 2006.

Former machine-gun platoon commander John, a 19-year-old during D-Day in 1944, was shot at least seven times by German gunners. The bullets shattered both his legs.

By yesterday afternoon the pair had ridden from Arromanches, where British D-Day troops stormed ashore, to Pegasus Bridge which was captured by Brit troops shortly before the landings.

Riders aim to raise £500,000 towards a target of £20million for seven new Army Recovery Centres to rehabilitate injured service personnel.

To read more about the team from Headley Court taking part check the H4H website HERE

One of the females amongst the 300 riders is blogging on daily progress:
Tuesday 26th May – Day Three!
Miles done so far – 135.8
Jelly Babies devoured – 5 mini packs (probably a little greedy)
Punctures – 0 (v lucky!)

We woke up after a somewhat disturbed night’s sleep, thanks to the ceremonial piper treating us to a little recital at 0130hrs – no more Calvados for yoo-hoo!

We had howling gales and a lot of water on the roads so unfortunately had a few inevitable “men-down!” en route to Arromanches. No man-tears though and everyone was very brave…

We had a fascinating couple of hours at Arromanches learning about how the floating mulberry harbours were built in the UK and towed across the channel to make a floating port. Only the British Army could come up with such an outrageous plan, without ever attempting such a thing before, and somehow manage to bluff their way through it to a rousing victory!! The achievement was incredible and we were lucky enough to have Uncle John Painter with us who is a Veteran of Arromanches (aged 19 at the time) and who was able to describe the unimaginable scenes of devastation that met him on his arrival to the war.

After a somewhat windswept lunch in the most exposed area of the whole of Northern Europe we re-mounted and set off to Pegasus Bridge via Merville Battery. The sun once more pulled a blinder and by the time we had learnt of the stealth attack by the Ox and Bucks Regt on Pegasus Bridge, there was no finer moment than sitting back with a cold beer at Mme Gondree’s café and soaking in the amazing atmosphere surrounding us. Harry Long , who was wounded whilst serving with 1RGJ, was one of the wreath layers at Pegasus Bridge and has been cycling on a hand-bike… imagine the guns!


Book Reviewer
( it's a bit like being a DJ at three can't actually swear to it that anyone's listening out there ?! )

here y'go - latest from the front:


Wednesday 27th May – Day Four!
Miles covered to date – 211
Punctures – 2 (clearly spoke too soon yesterday)
Hills – 1,247,879 (grrr!!)
Chocolate bars – 7 (honestly!)

Today has been the hardest day yet but morale seems to be staying strong. I have spoken to so many different people (mainly as they overtook me) and it is staggering to hear the different reasons people have for taking part in the ride. There is a palpable sense of Team Spirit and the laughs are pretty continuous.

We had our first water-stop at a Canadian cemetery, followed by lunch at Montormel where Uncle John and Andy Newell talked us through their separate experiences of being shot in action (Uncle John in Holland, Andy in Afghanistan) and evacuated back through the different aid posts, to the UK. Both incredible stories and on the whole I think I’ll probably try to avoid getting shot in future.

We broke the back of the mileage before lunch but that definitely did not prepare us for the hills we had to face in the afternoon. Even the road markings were written in blood…

I have found muscles I didn’t know I had, and have also learnt the difference between boys’ and girls’ cycling shorts… there has been definite “puckering”. I do however want to applaud the makers of the Rido saddle from the bottom of my heart and the heart of my bottom; a lifesaver!!

The French meteorology is having a laugh at the expense of the Brits, and having heard rumours of blistering heat today, I braved the elements in shorts and a wife-beater. Foolish, foolish mistake as the head-wind and fitful rain tried their hardest to prolong our arrival in Lisieux. Nevertheless, “ici nous sommes” and if I ever make it up from this chair I’m going to make a serious dent in the hotel’s supply of Chablis!
BFBS Reports are also covering the ride. For the non-DII element link HERE

Don Cabra
Great stuff. Getting it done as usual.
But what about a bike ride to the banks in London giving themselves huge bonuses. They could give this money for the Centres instead of buying Porches and bijou villas in Italy and Spain. Compared to what they award themselves 20 million is a pub piss up.

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