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Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 17:22 UK
Battle of Dunkirk anniversary marked by 600 mile cycle
Nick Roberts, Mark Tebbatt, Phil Kent and Fred Rudd
Nick, Mark and Phil were joined by Dunkirk veteran Fred Rudd as they set off

Three cyclists from Leicestershire are retracing the route of World War Two troops as they battled to reach the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940.

They will join hundreds more cyclists on the route raising funds for soldiers returning home injured from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nick Roberts, Mark Tebbatt and Phil Kent will cycle around 600 miles from Leicester, across France and Belgium.

They plan to arrive in Dunkirk for the 70th anniversary commemorative events.

Nick said his experiences as a soldier for 22 years with the Coldstream Guards inspired him to get involved with the fundraising trip.

"Being an ex-serviceman myself, I've lost friends and known people who have been wounded.

"I think it's very important to support these people and make it so they can be fully rehabilitated into society, and give them every opportunity to be the people that they were before they become injured."

Supporting the injured

It was a television programme showing soldiers bodies returning to the UK at Wootton Bassett that prompted Mark to take up the cycle challenge.

"You don't get to hear of the injured, and the injured are really important because they come back, they've got very little support.

"I can't do anything more than just raise some money, give it to 'Help For Heroes', and say here you go guys, help these fellows out."

The cycle route follows the old Fosse Way down to Portsmouth, where the three men will cross to Le Havre and then trace the journey the British Expeditionary Force took during May 1940, before retreating back to Dunkirk.

Celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk will include a fly pass by Battle of Britain planes, and a veteran march through the streets.

Phil said, "I think that era will always be remembered. It was a defeat for Britain, Dunkirk, it wasn't a victory, but from that defeat we salvaged the victory."

Fred Rudd from Thurmaston, one of the last remaining Leicestershire veterans of the Battle of Dunkirk, visited the trio as they set off on their cycle.

He said he feels proud to have been part of the historical event; "If that hadn't of happened this country would have been in a different state than it is today, that's all I can say about that."



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