Shropshire Star

Cyclist friends raise £11,000 for veterans

Two school friends have raised a whopping £11,000 on a bike ride to Belgium in memory of one the First World War’s bloodiest battles.

Ben and George at the Menin Gate

George Parish, of the Parish family who live at Walcot Hall in Lydbury North, has completed a ride of 320 miles from the war memorial in Hereford to the Menin Gate in Ypres, along with school friend Ben Elias, from near Hereford.

The two 17-year-olds are students at Eton College, the famous private school in Berkshire, and were cycling 100 years after the Battle of Passchendaele – one of the most brutal engagements of the Great War – which by November 1917 had seen the loss of more than half a million British and German soldiers in appalling conditions.

The boys chose the challenge to raise money for the Royal British Legion, as both studied the Great War at school and were moved by the sacrifice made by so many soldiers at Passchendaele.

George's mother Lucinda Parish, at the stately home in the village near Bishop's Castle, said: "They set off from Hereford with a very moving and prayerful send off from the Dean of Hereford, flanked by Royal British Legion standard bearers and escorted out of town by volunteer RBL motorcycle outriders.

"Through Twitter and very few messages from the boys – they were far too busy cyclying to communicate with their mothers! – we were able to keep up with their progress for the next three days.

"On their final day, day four, they had a relatively easy ride to the ferry, crossed from Dover to Calais and then cycled to Ypres."

She said a strong headwind from there to the finish meant they arrived two hours later than anticipated – just in the nick of time for the nightly act of remembrance at the Menin Gate at 8pm.

"We had galvanised a good group of people to cheer for them as they arrived as we had been waiting for at least two hours, not realising about the head wind slowing their progress.

"I must admit that I was very proud and thrilled to see George arrive safe and sound. His siblings were quite impressed too," she said.

She said the next day they visited the Passchendaele Museum and the Tyne Cot Cemetery.

"We have since discovered a photograph of Clement Woodbine Parish, George’s great grandfather, standing in army uniform in front of the ruins of Ypres in 1917. He was one of the lucky ones who managed to return home and live a long and full life," she said.

"To date, the boys have raised a staggering £11,054 – which has just passed their target of £11,000.

"The boys are looking to raise funds specifically for the Poppy Breaks initiative, which enables veterans, who have been wounded or suffer from mental illness as a result of their experiences, to go to Legion Centres for assistance, counselling or just a break. Each of these breaks costs £1,100, and the boys hoped to raise enough to send ten veterans away."

To donate further to the school friends drive, visit georgepedalforpasschendaele.