Emotional ride for Portsmouth sailors paying tribute to D-Day heroes

SAILORS from HMS Atherstone cycled 84 miles to honour the fallen of D-Day.
SAILORS from HMS Atherstone cycled 84 miles to honour the fallen of D-Day.
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SAILORS from a Portsmouth warship cycled 84 miles to honour the fallen of D-Day.

A squad of 13 from HMS Atherstone visited four of the five beaches in Normandy – Sword, Gold, Juno and Omaha – while clad in cycling jerseys donated by the Royal British Legion.

The minehunter’s bosun Petty Officer Gary Belcher, who came up with the idea of the ride, said being in Caen for the 72nd anniversary of the landings was the ideal time to tackle the challenge.

‘I didn’t think many people would be up for 84 hard miles of cycling through the Normandy Countryside but after putting the idea out, we had quite a bit of interest and compared to the sacrifices made by all those individuals 72 years ago to ensure our freedom it kind of pales into insignificance,’ he said.

Sub Lieutenant Jon Davies added: ‘We stopped at every memorial along the way we came across, the scale of the loss and some of the human endeavour was truly humbling, we owe our freedom to them, it was an experience that I’ll never forget.’

Perhaps the most touching moment of the journey was the opportunity to meet Sapper Ted Young, Royal Engineers, a British D-Day veteran and veteran of Juno Beach. The 93-year-old was visiting all the beaches with his family.

The ride was completed in ten hours and raised more than £1,300 for the Royal British Legion.

HMS Atherstone is currently manned by Crew 4 of the 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron. She returned home late last year after a three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf.