Portsmouth-born former Help for Heroes director to take on Land's End to John O'Groats cycle

A former director of Help for Heroes is cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for the armed forces charity.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 12:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2022, 3:36 pm

Portsmouth-born Peter Smith, 68 – who attended Portsmouth Grammar School and Churcher’s College, Petersfield, in his early years – served in the Army from 1973 to 2009, with another three years as a reservist, before working with Help for Heroes from 2009 to 2020.

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Keen cyclist Smith, a former Lieutenant-Colonel with the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, who now lives in Winterbourne Stoke, Wiltshire, explained: ‘This ride is an opportunity to give back. Firstly, as a veteran, because I think it’s important to support the wounded, injured and sick, and, also, because I had a good second career working for Help for Heroes.

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Former director of Help for Heroes Peter Smith is cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for the armed forces charity

‘I’ve done a number of the charity bike rides: three fundraising “Dawn Raids” – two from Tedworth House, Tidworth, and one from HMS Victory, in Portsmouth, where we cycled 100 miles overnight to the centre of London – and three Big Battlefield Bike Rides. I’ve been around a bit,’ he laughed.

Smith finished his career with the charity in 2020 as project and performance director. Now, he feels suitably refreshed and capable of taking on a challenge he’s long wanted to attempt.

He added: ‘I’d always had this challenge at the back of my mind as something I wanted to do. But, with work and family, I’ve never had the time. But now I’m retired, I’ve had the time to plan it and do it. I’m 68; my fitness is at a pretty good level; the plan is to do the route over 14 days, around 65 to 75 miles a day – and I think that’s doable.

‘My problem is people who want to do this are generally much younger than me and I can’t keep up with them. And people of my age tend to be far more sensible – and why would they want to do it? I’m very lucky that a friend, Mike Griffiths, a former Army colleague, who’s about 10 years younger than me, has opted to do it with me.

‘We’re going to carry everything we need with us, but we’re staying in B&Bs and hotels – we’re not going to camp – to ensure we have a good night’s sleep, which we will need.

‘The aim is to get the distance done and then have enough time to rest, recover, have a good meal and a good night’s sleep to be ready to go the following day. Cumulative fatigue is what’s going to catch up with us, particularly in the later days when we’re in the Scottish Highlands.’

The cycling odyssey began on Wednesday, 4 May, and is scheduled to finish on Tuesday, 17 May.

Help for Heroes believes those who serve our country deserve support when they’re wounded. Every day, men and women have to leave their career in the Armed Forces as a result of physical or psychological wounds. The Charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 26,500 people and won’t stop until every wounded veteran gets the support they deserve.