On 19th June 2010, 43 4x4s set off on a 10 day European rally. Before the start flag had even dropped, it was announced that an incredible £100,000 had been raised for H4H over the past 18 months. Those taking part included serving British and US military – some just back from Afghanistan – ex service personnel, civilians and 3 families with their children.
They set off from Littlecote House, heading towards Salisbury Plain and a stop off at H4H HQ in Tidworth. They took the ferry to Caen and a special visit to Pegasus Memorial. The group visited the Northern France battlefields and memorials, including those at Arromanches and Pont du Hoc.
Day 2 followed the route of the D-Day landings, taking in a number of Commonwealth War Graves. A haul to Arnhem lay ahead the next day – the journey was broken by encompassing some secret checks along the route; including Lochnager Crater and at Joe’s Bridge on the Belgian/Dutch border. The day’s end was a campsite on the edge of the Operation Market Garden parachute drop zone of September 1944.
Morning saw a presentation by the CWGC at the Oosterbeek cemetery and a visit to the nearby Airborne Museum. After crossing the John Frost Bridge (A Bridge Too Far) at Arnhem, a fast run to Veldhoven took us to a 4×4 venue arranged by Land Rover Club Holland. The return to camp was via the old ‘Hell’s Highway’ and took in Nijmegen Bridge and the ‘Island’.
The next day, a southerly run beckoned – but not before visiting the Reichswald Forest CWGC cemetery in Germany where, completely by chance, one of the entrants found the grave of one of his relatives killed in WWII. On the Dutch/German/Belgian border the field now found themselves in a quarry – and engaged in an ‘orienteering punch hunt’. Some 7 hours had elapsed since their departure from Arnhem – and they still had a 4 hour journey ahead; but with fantastic weather and the scenery of the Ardennes there were still smiles all around. Bastogne in the warm June sun was a different world from that bitter winter of 44/45. The Heritage Memorial told the story and the teams visited related sites of the area – including the fox-holes of Bois Jacques used by E Company and others as portrayed in the ‘Band of Brothers’: A moving experience in its own right.
The onward itinerary took in another off road site – in the Alsace before we crossed the Rhine and set camp after savouring the scenery of the Black Forest. A poignant visit to Dachau – where the atrocities of war leave an everlasting memory – was followed by the vistas of Bavaria, including more off-road and other challenges. Journey’s end led the entourage to the Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden; Hitler’s infamous summer retreat. Every vehicle that had set out from Wiltshire had arrived safely; some with thanks to the AA support that accompanied us throughout.
The rally winners were, fittingly, a serving army team in their Land Rover 110 Defender, Jim Bowen, Brad Bradwell & Paul Bass from Pirbright. Well done and thank you so much to everyone involved, the many long months of planning certainly paid off – this is an amazing achievement and you should all be very proud.
ABOVE: The Help for Heroes 4×4 European Rally 2010 was privileged to have Radio 2′s very own ‘Travel Totty, Lynne Bowles, to flag-off the start of the event.
ABOVE: A small selection of pictures from this event – for more pictures please visit our FaceBook page – CLICK HERE.