On July 27, motorcyclists Dougie Bancroft and Medwyn Parry set off on an epic journey in commemoration of the UK’s 51 ‘thankful villages’ – places where all the servicemen and women who went to fight in WW1 returned. Covering 2,365 miles in total, the duo were in their Triumph saddles for 65 hours over nine days.
The RAC is proud to have supported the ride and in this blog ex-serviceman Dougie relives a journey that was much more than just a road trip.
The 12th of December 2012 feels like a long time ago now, but that was the day that Medwyn and I sat in a cafe wondering what we could do for the centenary of the Great War. It was Medwyn – a respected military historian – who had the idea: ‘It has to be the thankful villages Dougie’. And so the project was born.
The Thankful Villages are special places where all the servicemen and women came home from the First World War. The main aim of the ride was focused on recognising these places where no memorial was given, but the inhabitants were still left scarred and broken by the realities of war.
Put simply, we wanted to give them a plaque and certificate to honour their sacrifices and give them somewhere to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.
Now, at the end of a fortnight that has both uplifted and inspired us, we cannot have anticipated how moving the experience would be.
Setting out on the morning of July 27 from our first village in Wales, Llanfihangel y Creuddyn, where we also finished on August 4, there was such a great atmosphere. So many people, so much goodwill. As usual, the biking community backed us all the way, you can see all the support we received on our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/347477682026155/.
Triumph www.triumph.co.uk , which supplied 30,000 ‘Triumph’ motorcycles to the allied forces in WW1, provided brand new Triumph Trophys with a beautiful poppy design for us to undertake the whole journey. And what a joy to ride they were!
There were so many highlights it is so hard to pick one out. Perhaps for me the most emotional moment was laying a wreath at the Needle in the National Arboretum with the Last Post playing. Not only was I not expecting it but it was also a great honour.
The thing, however, that both Medwyn and I feel most privileged to have been a part of is the stories we heard from so many people who remember the Great Wars. The realities and hardship that people can face is truly astounding.
One lady’s story particularly stuck with me as it was her job during World War II to go into the army canteen and see how many people had come back overnight so she could put payroll through for the ones who returned. A daily job none of us would want to go through, but was a necessity that she just got on with.
And, now that we are ensconsed back in our homes, the overriding feeling is one of thanks. We are thankful for the support from our partners, thankful for the riders who joined us – and thankful most of all to the communities who welcomed us with such open arms. We are proud to have been a small part of their amazing history – they will always be a big part of ours.
Do you want to help Dougie and Medwyn reach their fundraising goal? The pair have already raised more than £10,000 so far and have an aim of £51,000 to be given to Help for Heroes. To donate text THVR51 plus the amount you wish to donate (e.g. £5) to 70070.
Medwyn is on the left and Dougie on the right at the Cenotaph in London halfway through the ride.