D-Day anniversary ride to Berlin for North-East trio

Allied path to Berlin retraced on two wheels

by Tom Henry   June 9, 2009  

cycling germany.jpg

Three cyclists from Stockton-on-Tees have begun a D-Day commemorative ride across France and Germany to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

The trio, Jonathan Harley, brother Joe and friend Gavin Smallwood, are retracing the Allied advance across Europe in honour of the recent 65th anniversary of D-Day.

But while the British and American armies took the best part of a year to reach Berlin, the three are planning to arrive in the German capital in 20 days.

En route, the cyclists are planning to visit World War Two sites including Pegasus Bridge, Bastogne and the site of the Battle of the Bulge, Arnhem and the Market Garden Museum, Breendonk concentration camp and two other German camps.

All money raised from the charity cycle will go to directly to the Royal British Legion.

Jonathan, a 27-year-old solicitor, said: “Our aim is not only to raise money for veterans and current service personnel, but also to raise more awareness of the sacrifices these people made, and are making defending our country.

“I don't think, especially in today's climate, that the men and women of our armed forces get the recognition and respect they deserve.

“We are just trying to do our little bit to change that.”

His brother Joe, 20, a Durham University student, said he was probably the historian of the three and also the one who came up with the idea of going on the trip.

“I’ve always wanted to go to all these places,” he said. “My great uncle served in World War Two in Tunisia.

“At first I just said ‘Why don’t we cycle around Normandy?’

“And then I thought, why don’t we do the whole thing? Follow the D-Day landings, and then the allied advance into Germany - and see the major battle sites?”

The trio have been blogging their adventures at 3magnificentmen.blogspot.com. After their arrival in France last Friday they stayed the night and headed for Caen the following morning.

“The cycle in between was basically characterised by wind, rain and big, stupid hills,” they posted, “55 miles of them. Along the way we stopped at the British Cemetery in Bayeux which, like any military cemetery, was a really sobering sight. Comparatively small in size it nevertheless houses around 3,000 graves, the vast majority of which belong to men no older than 25.

“After more wind, rain and hills we made it to Caen, excited at the prospect of immersing ourselves in the history of the city which represented the focal point of the entire Allied advance in the days after D-Day. Unfortunately, however, everything was closed. Except the baguette shop. Which, despite selling exceedingly good baguettes, was of no historical significance whatsoever.”