Alan Spencer's 2018 Fundraising Challenge
For the last few years Alan Spencer, one of our Morden residents, has been assembling a team of cyclists, most of whom are also Veterans and who live locally, to raise money for the Trust by cycling round the battlefields of the Western Front in the Great War. Known as ‘Battlefield Challenges’, the name is all the more apt when you consider that Alan cycles using a specially adapted tricycle and just one hand. Moreover, not just a few miles either: over a hundred on each and every of these challenges.
With this year marking the Centenary of the ending of the Great War, Alan and this year’s team of 5 – himself, son Harry, brothers Mark and Simon Auckland, Graham Porter and Dave Stonnell, decided to undertake one last event – as much as to raise funds as to honour and pay respect to all those of our forebears who fought in that terrible conflict and who, in so many instances, never returned home. With typical British military humour, they all assumed ‘Blackadder’ nicknames for their trip with Alan, inevitably, becoming Baldrick.
The team departed Morden in the early hours of 5th November, cycling on this first day to Maidstone and the following to Folkestone, before crossing over into France via the Eurotunnel. There then followed a further 4 arduous days, sometimes in freezing cold and wet conditions, others in brighter and crisper weather, with their route taking them from Commonwealth War Cemetery to Cemetery, via Wimereux, Etapes, Montreuil, Amiens and along the route of the Somme, taking in Glisy, the Australian National War memorial at Villers Bretonneux, to Corbie, Bray sur Somme, Peronne, Bellicourt, St Quentin (and the French National Cemetery), the US Cemetery at Bony, the joint UK-German Cemetery at Le Cateau-Cambresis, St Symphorien, Nimy Railway Bridge where Private Simon Godley VC of The Royal Fusiliers won the war’s first Victoria Cross and, finally, late on the Saturday to Mons, headquarters of Field Marshall Haig for the latter years of the war. There, on Armistice Day, 11th November 2018, Alan and his team, all smartly turned out, represented the Trust and laid their final wreath at a major ceremony at the Municipal Cemetery.
They then loaded with their cycles into their safety vehicle (a tight squeeze) and drove straight home, via Calais to Morden, finally arriving back home in the late evening of that same day.