Last year they were riders in the storm. This time round, they rode into battle…fields. And all because they got on their bikes to raise money for charity…
For this week, 20 exhausted Milton Keynes Rugby Club members returned to Wolverton after a three day, 280 mile, Ring of Fire tour of the battlefields of France and Flanders. But it wasn’t just any old bike ride, oh no. The tyred troop battled more than 40 punctures, blistering heat and torrential rains to honour a Wolverton boy soldier and a brave war hero.
Albert French was a 14 year old lad from the home of the Royal Train who fibbed about his age to join up in the Great War. It was a lie that would cost him his life, at the age of 16. However, the people of Wolverton and the Belgian village of Ploegsteert still honour his memory, and countless others, today.
So the rugby club riders donned their lycras, readied themselves and saddled up to deliver wreaths to the land where he lies buried and the mayor turned out to greet them – along with an MK50 cow which came along for the ride.
On the way, one of the riders and LOS’ very own, Chris Stevens, delivered another wreath to the Mayor of the French village of Vieux-Berquin which his great-grandfather, Captain Thomas Pyrce, liberated in the Spring of 1918. His heroism cost him his life – but earned him a Victoria Cross to add to the two Military Crosses he had already won.
Next stop was the former Front Line field where German and Allied troops famously had a Christmas Truce game of football. MKRUFC’s biker boys laid a wreath and a signed shirt from the players of MK Dons football club to pass their respects.
It was a bike ride for the brave. One which ended up with representatives from Wolverton town and MKRUFC laying wreaths at the Menen Gate Last Post ceremony in Ypres – a poignant end for a meaningful trip.
Three of the twenty charity riders were Line One Sales employees – Gary, Chris and Joss along with company friends, colleagues and familiar faces cycled every inch of the 280 mile route to show their support for MKRUFC and to raise the profile of sport in their local area – something that they hope will encourage others across the country to do so too.
Their efforts among the locals throughout the trip did not go unnoticed as they lycra lads were featured on various local newspapers and also on French TV – where they were interviewed and filmed at the Ploegsteert memorial. You can read the articles yourself here (some translation will be required!).
Milton Keynes Rugby Club chairman and tour organiser, Gary Spinks said: “Last year we cycled from London to Paris to raise money for various charities and we just happened to choose the wettest weekend in France for 300 years.But it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. It was an honour this time, for the boys – and two ladies – to take part and increase our rider count from four to twenty. We’ve honoured the memories of these heroes…and helped the club raise some much needed and deserved funding. We have a target of £30,000, so if anyone can help, please donate what you can”. Find out more about the Rugby Club here.
If you’d like to donate and show your support for the lads and their ambition to raise the profile of sport in their community, then please visit their Local Giving page and contribute to their momentous effort.