Friday, 24 September 2021

Battle of Britain bike ride

A FORMER RAF pilot is organising a charity bicycle ride from Paris to London to mark

A FORMER RAF pilot is organising a charity bicycle ride from Paris to London to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Steve McGann, 39, of Old London Road, Benson, hopes to raise £75,000 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

He is one of 75 riders who will take part in the 280–mile ride over four days, beginning on September 9.

His wife Claire and sister–in–law Lucy Holdaway will also be taking part.

The cyclists, who will be riding Brompton foldaway bicycles, will ride through northern France before taking a ferry crossing from Dieppe to Newhaven in East Sussex.

They will visit the Battle of Britain memorial in Capel–le–Ferne, near Folkestone, before making their way to London.

They will ride along Fleet Street and The Mall in formation to Buckingham Palace.

Mr McGann, a former Puma helicopter pilot, said he came up with the idea about a year ago but he had never forgotten meeting two Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots, Jeff “Dicky” Bird and Rodney Scrase, when he was a young pilot.

He said: “They were normal men involved in something extraordinary but were really humble.

“I felt really privileged to meet these guys and was always inspired by that.

“I wanted to do something to reflect the Battle of Britain and the sacrifices that men made and for the RAF Benevolent Fund, which has always been close to my heart.

“I wanted to mark the anniversary in my own way and combine what I enjoy doing now, which is cycling, while trying to raise some funds.

“About 75 squadrons participated in the Battle of Britain and each rider will carry the names of each squadron.”

Mr McGann spent 10 years based at RAF Benson before leaving the armed forces in October 2013 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He now works as a bid director for business management firm Capita in London and commutes to work by bicycle and train.

Brompton has agreed to lend the riders their bicycles if they need one and has given the organisers one to be auctioned to raise more money for the charity.

The firm has also created a special red, white and blue model to mark the Battle of Britain anniversary and will donate a proportion of money from each sale of these to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

About 40 riders have so far signed up for the ride and Mr McGann is appealing for more.

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