THE largest single challenge being done to commemorate the beginning of world war one began on Monday.
A Veterans in Action (VIA) team set out on the WW1 – 100 relay from Ypres in Belgium, with the aim of raising £3million on the 4,000-mile journey.
The whole team walked just over six miles from Tyne Cot War Cemetery, the largest British war cemetery in the world, to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, carrying the different event flags, including the Belgian National Flag.
The 100-day relay walk then began with two members of the team, progressing with a change of walkers every nine miles.
Team leader Garry Goldingay said: “The aim of WW1-100 is twofold. Primarily it is to raise awareness of the centenary of the start of the Great War, and the sacrifices made by the three million British and Commonwealth service personnel who were killed or wounded in the service of their countries.
“Secondly it is to learn from the past and raise funds for those veterans who are currently suffering from the effects of war, or who have found the transition to civilian life difficult.”
The relay crossed the border into France, where the Belgian National Flag was changed for the French National Flag, and continued to Calais, arriving on Tuesday morning.
The team then crossed the English Channel to Dover, where the French National Flag was changed for the Union Flag.
The route will follow the Kent coastline to London, arriving on May 5, when a wreath will be laid at the Cenotaph.
Walkers will then set off around the coastline of mainland Britain, heading east to Essex and travelling anti-clockwise. They will finish back in London on August 4, where a vigil will be held at Westminster Abbey at 11pm, 100 years to the minute when Britain declared war on Germany.
Among more than 700 villages, towns and cities en-route, the VIA Walking Team will pass through Littlehampton, Rustington, East Preston, Ferring, Worthing and Shoreham on Sunday, July 27, following a fundraising day in Brighton on July 26.
Mr Goldingay said: “We hope to raise the public’s awareness of the walk so they can join or watch our progress through their town. Nearer the start date, we can supply the exact route to be taken through the area.”
He explained that VIA takes a non-therapy approach, using the outdoors and challenging events to help rebuild confidence, self-esteem and self-belief.
The WW1 – 100 relay is one of its biggest challenges to date, with the aim to raise the equivalent of £1 for each British and Commonwealth service person killed or wounded in world war one.
The funds raised will enable VIA to continue to deliver and develop its unique ALIVE Program, which was built through observations and feedback from individual veterans.
Veteran Mark Smith said: “Veterans in Action gave me the opportunity to walk as part of a team of ex-servicemen, from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Since then I’ve gone from strength to strength.”
Visit www.v-i-a.org.uk for more information about the WW1 – 100 relay walk.