Gerard and Sarah Bland from Warboys are cycling from Paris to London as part of the RAF Brompton Bicycle Challenge to raise money for the service’s charity.
The event is being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund. In fact, organisers are planning to have 75 participants, each raising £1000 to reach a total of £75,000 for the charity.
Starting at the Eifel Tower on September 9, the route will cover 211 miles over four days on its way back to The Mall on September 12.
The RAFBF was formed in 1919 just after the First World War and aims to support serving airmen, veterans and their families. It receives no direct government funding, so relies entirely on public donations.
Sarah, 50, said: “The RAFBF is close to our hearts. My husband is a serving officer, as was my dad [David Leech], and they were so good to my dad, and me and my mum when he passed away.”
As an RAF couple, the Blands actually moved to Warboys nine years ago because of its close ties to Operation Pathfinder. In fact, Lancaster bombers flew from the local airfield during the Second World War. Gerard, 54, a Group Captain, also took part in the Help for Heroes Battlefield Cycle Challenge in 2010.
The entire journey will be undertaken on British-made Brompton bicycles, which are more normally used for commuting duties, as a celebration of the engineering that helped win the Battle of Britain in 1940. The ‘Brommie’, as it is affectionately known, can be broken down and folded up, so can easily be taken on a train by commuters.
Sarah who works as a healthcare assistant at the Moat House surgery in Warboys as a healthcare assistant says her patients have been very generous with their donations, as have her husband’s colleagues in the RAF.
“My husband takes his Brompton on the train to work at the MoD in Whitehall. It only takes ten minutes from the station. It only has three gears, but it’s a good little bike. I’m not sure about doing 210 miles on one, though!”