A TOUGH team of soldiers will swap their rifles for bicycles during a fundraising "Hero Ride" to raise money to help injured soldiers battle back to a better life.
Team Sapper, made up of both former Royal Engineers and cycling enthusiasts, has already raised £100,000 for Help for Heroes over the last five years but the fund-raising continues with a gruelling cycle ride next month as they seek to take their mission up a gear.
The 20 strong team, led by retired lieutenant colonel Gerry Taggart of Upton Road, Powick, will ride out from the Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall, Shropshire, on Thursday, June 5 to join the main ride at Blackheath on Sunday, June 8, a distance of 300 miles.
Planned with military precision, the ride has four stages, Lilleshall to Worcester, Worcester to Tedworth House, then from Andover to Leatherhead and the final day is from Leatherhead to Blackheath to join up with more than 1,000 Hero Riders from all over the UK.
The ride is sponsored by Couch Perry Wilkes, consulting engineers and three members of St John's Cycling Club are also taking part.
They say an army marches on its stomach so Team Sapper are grateful for a hearty send-off with a curry evening at The Bear and Ragged Staff at Bransford on June 5, at the end of the first day. The Help for Heroes mascot, Hero the Bear, will also be there to cheer them on.
Mr Taggart said: "We're concentrating our fundraising this year on Team Battle Back. They are a sub set of Help for Heroes and concentrate on providing adaptive sport and adventurous training for wounded and sick service people to rebuild their confidence."
He said fundraising for soldiers was a long-term thing with returning soldiers having an ongoing need for mobility assistance and also support for mental health issues such as combat stress.
Team Sapper consists of Rick Allen, John Durham, Laura Robinson, Ian Seward, Rob Brien, Ian McGill, Chris Davies, Alan Holman, John Wyatt, Jim Bowden, Steve Cottrell, Tim Robertson, Roger Christie, Andy Mackinson, Pecker Harrod, Simon Seaton-Smith, Morgan Hayley Bell, Ian Thomas and Ashley Powell.
Team Sapper have been at the helm of a host of fundraising activities, including a dinner, cycle rides with plans ahead for a fundraising dinner, the Three Peaks challenge, concerts and a cycle hill climb at Shelsley Walsh. Mr Taggart asked people to support the cause by visiting www.bmycharity.com/teamsapper