A fundraiser from Stoke-on-Trent will be following in the footsteps of his grandfather, by cycling the 760 mile route the prisoner of war took during the Second World War…

On 21 February 2018 Martin Palmer and his father Stephen Palmer will start their journey from Poland to Germany to raise funds for Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

“My Grandfather didn’t really speak about World War II, I knew he was a prisoner of war, but it wasn’t until I started researching that I found out what he went through. I remember him mentioning that he went on a walk across Europe, but he didn’t say any more than that.

“I discovered that this was a 760 mile walk during one of the worst winters on record, with temperatures reaching -25c.”

Reading about his grandfather’s experience inspired Martin to recreate the route the prisoners of war took in 1945 from Malbork, Poland to just outside Berlin, Germany.

“I’ve done a few bike rides before, but the longest has been 230 miles for a local hospice so this will be a challenge. It will take us three days to get there and then we’ve planned for it to take 15 days, doing 50 miles a day.

“Although my dad will be driving a support van, we’re going to try to beg and borrow accommodation like the prisoners of war had to and I’ll be pulling a trailer with all my stuff that weighs around 25kg. At that time of year we will also be battling against limited day light which also adds to the challenge.”

Having both served in the Army, Martin and Stephen chose to support Combat Stress after a few of their friends received treatment through the charity.

“I think times are changing and people are beginning to be more open about mental health problems. A few of my friends who never talked about their mental health are now seeking help and a few are getting that help from Combat Stress. I wanted to be able to use this challenge to put some money back in to the charity that’s helping my friends.”

Robert Marsh, Director Income Generation at Combat Stress said: “We’re so grateful to Martin and Stephen for choosing to support Combat Stress through this incredible challenge.

“Each year we receive 2,000 referrals from former servicemen and women with issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important that we raise awareness and funds for the charity to enable us to continue to support every veteran that comes to us for help.

“Without fundraisers like Martin and Stephen we wouldn’t be able to continue providing this life changing treatment.”

To sponsor Martin and Stephen please visit their Virgin Money Giving page