On the march to remember the spirit of ‘82
PUBLISHED: 11:44 12 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:44 12 March 2015
Biggin Hill businessman travelled to the Falkland Islands to follow in the footsteps of the Royal Marines
For many, raising funds for charity involves having your hair cut or sitting in a bath with cold baked beans, but one Biggin Hill businessman travelled thousands of miles to the Falkland Islands to follow in the footsteps of the Marines. Chris Murphy reports...
A BIGGIN Hill man has led a novel 75 mile march across the Falklands to raise thousands for charity.
Graeme Shankland said he wanted to accurately recreate the historic route taken by the Royal Marines, 45 Commando Group in 1982.
Mr Shankland, a financier, is also captain of the AFC – the April Fools Club, which undertook the march.
The April Fools Club is a group of 40 senior businessmen and professionals that sets out to share leadership experiences and to raise awareness of the strategic mission of the RAF within the business community.
He and 11 members and fellow businessmen helped raise £176,000 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The money will help build a pair of seaside respite apartments in Sussex for RAF families.
Mr Shankland is no stranger to fund-raising having singlehandedly raised more than £72,000 in the past.
The marchers have just returned from following the Commandos’ route march, effectively swapping their boardrooms for bogs – which they called Crossing the Falklands for Charity.
Trading in their business suits for walking boots, they had to combat not only the hostile terrain, but also the extreme cold.
It’s so cold penguins are regular visitors from nearby Antarctica.
After finishing the trek, Mr Shankland said: “The yomp was incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically.
“The amazing scenery masks brutal terrain and the weather could change from sunny to sleeting in the blink of an eye.
“But it was an incredible experience to follow in the steps of 45 Commando and the yomp only deepened my respect for the service and sacrifice of all our military personnel.”
Mr Shankland said: “Our yomp was a little easier than that of the Marines 30 years ago; we didn’t have to carry the enormous packs they had to endure, our equipment is better, and we had better weather.
“But then we didn’t have the military training that made them mentally and physically resilient enough to complete their mission.
“The greatest challenge for us was the elements: the risk of injury in the notoriously boggy terrain, temperatures near freezing at night and only reaching seven or so in the day, plus the constant winds and storms that blow in off the Atlantic.”
After discovering how much they raised, he added: “We hope that the new home will give RAF families a much needed and well-deserved break by the sea away from the strains of frequent moves and long deployments.”
The marchers had just a matter of a few days to cover the distance, but did have the backing of Falklands hero and former Welsh Guard Simon Weston.
He was seriously burned in an Argentine attack on his ship, HMS Sir Galahad.
It had just landed at San Carlos en route to Bluff Cove when the ship was bombed.
Weston suffered burns to almost half his body, but made a remarkable recovery to become a public figure of the Falklands campaign.
He said: “I’m delighted to have supported the April Fools Club expedition to the Falkland Islands.
“Raising money for respite homes to be built is a very important task and I commend them for their efforts.”
This Falklands trek was the club’s first fundraising effort, and it chose the apartments project as, once completed, they will provide a stress-free environment for RAF personnel and their families to relax, reconnect, and enjoy quality time together, particularly after deployments.
Mr Shankland said: “Planning had taken two years and the key issues were establishing a safe route and suitable camp locations, not to mention the training and fundraising effort.
“We followed the route of 45 Commando and take in as many of the battlefield scenes as we could.”
The expedition saw the group depart from San Carlos to pass through New House, Douglas, Teal Inlet, MountKent, Two Sisters, and Sapper Hill before ending at Stanley.
The rough terrain switches from peat bogs to tussock grass and rocky hillsides.
The team had to carry all their day-to-day provisions, camping out and sheltering when possible in outbuildings and sheep sheds.
Mike Neville, director of fundraising at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “RAF families face many challenges, including frequent moves and long deployments.
“The two new seaside apartments will provide a much needed break, allowing families to relax and reconnect. We are so appreciative of the April Fools Club’s incredible undertaking and very generous support.”
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