WOUNDED servicemen and women joined hundreds of fundraisers as the Big Battlefield Bike Ride got under way.
The huge charity event features 34 injured members of the armed forces and around 226 other people, all raising money for Help For Heroes.
Yesterday the riders left Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a six-day ride to Dunkirk through the battlefields of the first and second world wars.
The wounded British and Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen will travel by boat to Le Havre before cycling over 350 miles through the Somme battlefields to raise money for other injured service personnel.
Bob Ferguson was shot in the hip when he was serving in the army in Northern Ireland aged just 19, leaving his back permanently damaged.
Now the 55-year-old, of Ophir Road, North End, says he is riding to help provide young servicemen with the care he never received.
Despite living in almost constant pain he has taken part in the last three bike rides and estimates he will soon have ridden 1,000 miles for the charity and raised £15,000.
‘Being shot left me 50 per cent disabled,’ he said. ‘And that was it for me in the army, it ruined my life.
‘These days I would probably be kept on but back then it was different. That’s why Help for Heroes are doing such fantastic work.
‘My son is in the army and it’s so good there’s a group looking after the young people who come back wounded.
‘Doing the ride is amazing. It’s hard work but my motto is: my pain, their gain.’
Also doing the bike ride, which he takes part in every year, is co-founder and chief executive of Help for Heroes Bryn Parry.
He said: ‘I never in my wildest dreams thought that the charity would take off like this.
‘And what I find amazing is the very disabled servicemen and women we are trying to help tell me they do the bike ride to give something back.
‘That is just amazing.’
He added: ‘I always wanted to leave from Portsmouth for the ride because here we have HMS Victory, the flagship of the most famous disabled sailor in British history.
‘The symbolism makes sense and, like Nelson, we just treat people as people – disabled or not.’
The Big Battlefield Bike Ride was the first event for the charity back in 2008.
Five years later, Help for Heroes has raised over £135m. Visit helpforheroes.org.uk to find out more.