Inspired to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was held prisoner during the Second World War, fundraiser Martin Palmer and his father Stephen Palmer have set themselves the challenge of cycling 760 miles in aid of Combat Stress.
Martin will recreate the route his grandfather and other prisoners of war took in the winter of 1945 when they were forced to march from Malbork, Poland, to the outskirts of Berlin, Germany.
“My Grandfather didn’t really speak about the Second World War, I knew he was a prisoner of war, but it wasn’t until I started researching that I found out what he went through. On some of his paperwork I noticed the name Sgt Major Fulton. After searching online I was able to pin point what camp my grandfather had been in and by looking up accounts of other people in the camp at the same time, I was able to work out what had happened.
“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.”
On 21 February 2018, around the same time of year the prisoners of war set out on their march, Martin will cycle the route with his dad driving a support van.
“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. I’ve been training for about a year, doing 20 miles a day, including a practice trip from Stoke to Scarborough. 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.
“I want to faithfully retrace the steps my grandfather took. They had to beg and borrow accommodation, usually staying in churches, so we decided that we’ll do the same. My dad will be driving a support van, which we will be living out of if we have to. They could also only take with them the items that they could carry, so I’ll be pulling a trailer with all my stuff that weighs around 25kg. At that time of year we will 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.
“So far we’ve raised over £4,500. We raised about £2,000 through a fundraising event in my aunt’s pub, where we had a band, a raffle and a few people even got their chests waxed.”
To sponsor Martin and Stephen please visit their Virgin Money Giving page.