Four veteran sexagenarian friends, from across the south, are to ride their Harley Davidson motorcycles on a 5,000-mile road trip in June, while raising money for Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes.
The quartet of pals – Trevor (Joe) Burden, 60, from Bournemouth; Alan Sands, 61, from Wickham, Hants; and Amesbury duo Fred Ball, 66, and 63-year-old Rupert ‘Dusty’ Miller – all served in the Royal Hampshire Regiment, nicknamed The Tigers, and have named their odyssey ‘Tigers on Tour’.
They will ride from Tidworth Camp to the Dhekelia Station base, in Cyprus, travelling via the Channel Tunnel to mainland Europe, and then passing through Stuttgart, Graz, Sofia, Ankara, and Mersin, in Turkey, before catching the ferry across to Cyprus. The return leg will be the same in reverse, leaving Cyprus on 13 June, and is scheduled to finish at Tidworth Camp around 19 June.
Alan explained: “This was about us having the experience of a lifetime; sharing it would be a statement of our friendship and a reminder of the camaraderie of when we served as young men; a time to reminisce and share old stories. But it has now become more than that – it’s not just about four veterans. It’s about all the veterans who gave so much for this country.
“It’s about the loved ones left behind; it’s about the people who still mourn for those who can’t be with us. It’s about those who constantly battle with everyday life; it’s about those who feel left behind. We would never leave anyone behind in battle, so why should we leave them behind now? This is still a battlefield for them.”
And the quartet speak from personal experience, with the loss of close comrades still a painful memory.
Alan added: “We four have lost friends in conflicts, we have also seen the devastation it leaves behind. We lost a very good friend on a tour, and he left behind a daughter who never got to see her father.
“So, this is very personal and very close to our hearts. We hope that whatever is raised will help make some difference to someone else’s life. That an ex-serviceman or woman get a meal, get a roof over their heads, get the help they need to recover. We four have been fortunate in the sense that we have each other, which so many don’t. It’s time that we gave something back. It’s not how much you give, it’s that you have given.”
Help for Heroes’ area fundraising manager, John Carpenter, said: “It always brings a lump to my throat when I see veterans fundraising to help support their contemporaries. Our thanks go to the ‘Tigers’ for their efforts; it’s a long journey and I hope it’s as memorable for them as it is beneficial to their fellow veterans.”