Villages’ First World War soldiers to be honoured

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Two Northamptonshire villages are among 51 hamlets in the UK which are taking part in a charity event to recognise the contribution made by returning First World War soldiers.

The Thankful Villages Run is a nine-day charity ride, taking place between Saturday (July 27) and August 4, to present each of the 51 communities with a slate plaque to commemorate those who were fortunate enough to return home at the end of the Great War in 1918.

On the fourth and fifth days of the tour, July 30 and July 31, Dougie Bancroft and Medwyn Parry, the motorcyclists who are behind the charity ride, will be visiting Woodend in the south of the county and East Carlton, near Corby.

Their trip has been made possible by the support of several British businesses, notably Triumph Motorcycles, which has donated two of its modern, 1215c Trophy tourers to undertake the 2,500 mile journey around Great Britain.

Triumph, the Leicestershire-based firm which sells more large capacity bikes (over 500cc) than any other brand in the UK, has a special reason to support the Thankful Villages Run as it supplied 30,000 motorcycles, known as Trusty Triumphs, to the allied forces in the First World War.

Because their military heroes returned, the 51 communities, nicknamed Thankful Villages, have no traditional war memorial and the bravery of their young men on the frontline is often forgotten, though many who left to fight were scarred physically and mentally by their ordeal.

As well as recognising the debt paid by the young men who returned from the Great War, the Thankful Villages Run aims to raise £51,000 in aid of the Royal British Legion.

Starting from mid Wales, Mr Bancroft and Mr Parry will visit every village, where they will present the residents, who will include descendants of those who survived the Great War, with a commemorative slate plaque and certificate in remembrance of their contribution. Both Triumph motorcycles feature a bespoke poppy field design to help them stand out on the road during their trip and act as a visual link to the Royal British Legion.

Guy Masters, general manager of Triumph UK, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude not only to those that took part in the First World War, but also to those who have made similar sacrifices in subsequent conflicts.”

Mr Bancroft said: “Both Medwyn and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Triumph and all our other sponsors. We can’t wait to hit the road on the two bikes. The incredible support and assistance Triumph has shown us has enabled us to concentrate on the important job of speaking to the villages to ensure we can raise our target of £51,000 for the Royal British Legion.”

Next year marks 100 years since the start of the First World War and the Thankful Villages Run has garnered strong support across the political spectrum as well as being embraced by the local communities of each village, plus the Royal British Legion’s motorcycle clubs.

The journey starts near Aberystwyth at 8am on Saturday and finishes at the same point at about 7.30pm on Sunday, August 4.

Riders of any bikes are welcome to join in any part of the trip, but they will be encouraged to make a minimum donation of £5 per bike per day for the Thankful Villages Run.

Further details of the ride, including a complete schedule, are available at www.thankfulvillagesrun.com.

Mr Parry, a military historian, said: “Joining us is easy – just check out the schedule, arrive with a full tank and remember that it is a ride of respect, rather any kind of race or endurance test.”

Full details of the route can be found at http://www.thankfulvillagesrun.com/schedule.php