The great-granddaughter of a First World War hero is set to cycle over 300 miles to commemorate her ancestor’s sacrifice and raise money to help visually-impaired veterans.
Rebecca Dorkins, 35, from Crawley, will be tackling Blind Veterans UK’s Unite and Bike for Heroes in memory of her great-grandfather, Harry Hackett.
The six-day, 235-mile bike ride will take her through the battlefields of Northern France.
A professional soldier, Harry signed up to join the Army in 1912, two years before the outbreak of war.
He went on to serve in the Grenadier Guards and was present at the 1914 ‘Christmas Truce’, in which British and German troops famously ceased fire and played football in No Man’s Land.
Harry was killed whilst defending a railway from German troops in the tiny village of Hazebrouck, Northern France, just seven months before the war ended. He was 26.
Rebecca was inspired to join Blind Veterans UK’s Unite and Bike for Heroes after researching Harry’s life.
She said: “Though I never got the chance to meet him, I felt a real connection to Harry.
“Over the last few years, I’ve read Harry’s letters to my great-grandmother Olive about his time on the front and the things he saw.
“He was there at the Christmas Truce and he recognised straight away how significant that moment was going to be.
“He even wrote down the names of the German soldiers he met and we’ve traced those soldiers’ stories as well.”
Rebecca’s bike ride will help to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
She said: “My grandfather, Harry’s son, fought in the Second World War and suffered with macular degeneration later in life, so there’s something particularly poignant about raising money for a charity which helps veterans with sight loss regardless of how and when they lost their sight.
“I saw that Blind Veterans UK was doing this incredible bike ride through the First World War battlefields and initially thought it would be too much of a challenge.
“I soon changed my mind, though, because it was something I really wanted to do to commemorate my great-grandfather and get the opportunity to stand on the same ground Harry fought on.”
Rebecca is currently raising money for the event and is selling some of her late grandfather’s possessions to generate sponsorship for the ride.
Places for Unite and Bike for Heroes are still available. The ride begins on August 4, the 100th anniversary of Britain entering the war, and kicks off at Folkestone, the major embarkation point of the British Forces of WWI.
The ride will then take participants all the way to Paris, while taking in the major battlefields and memorials and inviting riders to pay their respects.
Entry to the six-day event is only £149, with a minimum sponsorship of £1,895.
To sponsor Rebecca and raise money for Blind Veterans UK, log on to www.justgiving.com/Rebecca-Dorkins1 or sign up for Unite and Bike for Heroes at www.blindveterans.org.uk/bikeforheroes.