SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, is calling keen cyclists from Hampshire to ‘Ride to The Somme’ in honour of the local cycling soldiers from The Hampshire Regiment that died during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The four day event will raise vital funds for SSAFA, the UK’s oldest national military charity, and the closing date to sign up is Friday 10 June 2016. Currently the team is 60 riders strong however the charity is looking to secure a total of 100 riders.
One hundred years ago this summer, on 1 July 1916, the allies took on a major offensive against the German Army, and after heavy artillery pounded the German lines the allied soldiers went “over the top”. On that first day of the Battle of The Somme the British Army suffered 60,000 casualties. By November the Allies had advanced five miles with one million men from both sides killed or injured.
At the outbreak of World War One, the Government called on SSAFA to take care of the families of the Armed Forces going to the front line. Money raised via Ride to the Somme will go towards helping servicemen and women, veterans and their families in need today following recent conflicts.
When riders enlist, they will be asked to select a Cycling Battalion from World War 1 that they wish to represent, these are The Norfolk Regiment, The Suffolk Regiment, The Royal Sussex Regiment, The Essex Regiment, The Kent Cyclist Battalion, The Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment, The Northern Cyclist Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), The Highland Cyclist Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment, Isle of Wight Rifles, The Hampshire Regiment and The Welsh Regiment.
Those that enlist will meet at The Imperial War Museum on 31st August and travel to France, cycling 250 miles over four days visiting cemeteries which have graves of soldiers from the Army Cycling Corps, before reaching The Thiepval Memorial – The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, on Saturday 3rd September which marks the 72,195 British and African soldiers with no known grave.
· Event date: Wednesday 31 August 2016 to Saturday 4 September 2016.
· Distance: approx. 250 miles.
· Ability: Intermediate level and above.
· Registration: £200 per person.
· Fundraising target: £1,300 per person.
· Riders need to provide their own bike and cycling equipment.
· SSAFA will provide all cycling support, travel to and from France, water and accommodation.
At the outbreak of World War I the British Army was considerably smaller than other armies across Europe and was supplemented by a Territorial Force of part time soldiers including 15 Cycling Battalions. The Army Cycling Corps was founded in 1914.
On the front line, the bicycle was deployed as transport of soldiers, reconnaissance and communications whilst at home cyclists were recruited for coastal defence work.
SSAFA is the oldest national military charity in the UK and its network of around 6,500 volunteers supports some 55,000 serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families each year. For more information on SSAFA and what it does, please visit www.ssafa.org.uk