Sunday, 7 October 2012

RTTW 2012

With my head bowed, all I could hear was the chinking of the cable against the flag pole.

15,000 Bikers present and you could have heard a pin drop. Now if that is not a sign of respect for our Armed Forces, then I have no idea what is.

RTTW 5th Anniversary 2012 

2012 RTTW - Ride to the Wall our 4th and the RTTW’s 5th anniversary was simply amazing.

So many bikers in just one small area showing their support for our Armed Forces and their respect for those no longer with us. Nothing I can say will portray the immense pride I and the other 14,999 bikers have in our Armed Forces but still we all have one thing in common, the Ride to the Wall, held the first weekend in October every year. The first ride was the idea of just one man Martin Dickinson.
Read about the History of Ride to the Wall on the RTTW website. From humble beginnings in 2007 to the first ever RTTW in 2008 the event has grown into what can only be described as the "Biggest Event" in the biking communities calender.

RTTW Mission Statement
That bikers may gather together and ride as a group to a place of remembrance to pay their respects to our serving and fallen servicemen and women and in doing so raise funds solely for the purpose of perpetuating their memory.

Getting up at 6.30am on a Saturday is never great but once a year Jeannie& I do just that. The reason being, we are both ex-forces, both having served in the British Army. Jeannie as an Officer in the Queen Alexander Royal Army Nursing Corp (QA’s) as a Captain & me as a Corporal in the Army Catering Corp, re-badging on Spilt docks in Bosnia to Royal Logistics Corp.

Meeting the guys from the MancRiders just off junction 19 of the M6 was nice. There were a few faces we knew and what was better still a few faces we didn’t. As with all clubs we, the MancRiders that is, are starting to draw in like minded members. Mature, local, dedicated bikers with nothing to prove who just want to enjoy riding and having a laugh. Of all the forums I partake in the MancRiders has to be the most open minded and at times, ruthless bunch of people I have had the pleasure of chatting to and meeting. No bull, no quarter given or expected. If you want a straight forward “what you see is what you get” bunch of true mates then look no further than the MancRiders.

MancRiders Motley Crew 2012

The ride down the M6 was kept interesting by a couple of "eager beavers" and frustrated as ever by the impatient drivers pulling in and generally not giving a dam about what we were a part of. Once we were off the M6 at the toll road the crowds appeared, waving, and cheering us on. This is when you just know you are part of something special, really special. The crowds got bigger the closer we got to the National Memorial Arboretum , why it is not called the Royal Arboretum I have absolutely no idea, still there’s always time.

So many bikers, all heading to the RTTW

Pulling into the “over-flow” car park to find thousands of bikes there already is both reassuring and humbling. So many bikers, so much respect.

15,000 Bikers with one thing on their minds

The National Memorial Arboretum is full to overflowing , our 4th visit and even more bikers than ever before, filling the place with so much respect. It is without doubt the busiest day of the year and I am so proud to be a part of the whole event.

Listening to the pipers fills me with pride, the video of thanks from our troops in Afghanistan makes me want to cry. They are thanking us, the biking community for attending, I am holding back the tears as I write just thinking about how sincere their words of thanks were. In my world it is “Us” who should be thanking them for doing what they are doing, keeping us safe and happy. Allowing us to live our lives in relative peace and calm. I know what it is like to see sadness and destruction first hand. It’s a place I visit in my mind quite often, not as often as years gone by but it is still there waiting to remind me when I’m at my lowest ebb.

The fly over was brilliant 

The sound of the bugler sounding the reveille brings us all back to the here and now with what can only be called relief. It’s then I realise that what happened in Bosnia is for the most part forgotten, except for today.

As long as I have a breath in my body and a bike in the garage I will always attend the RTTW – Ride to the Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum .

After the joke came the painful reminder
of the Falkland's Conflict 

After what feels like minutes the event is over, the thoughts are stowed away, the  prayers are said and everyone who attends shares one common bond, that of respect for those no longer with us.

In the visitors centre stands a poignant reminder of our forces losses. One which strikes a cord with so many visitors, “Empty Chairs” it is called by the artist Mike Yorke. It is a display of small model “Empty Chairs” each representing a member of the Armed Forces who as lost their lives in Afghanistan. When he started the project there were 140 “Empty Chairs” as of 7th October 2012 there are 438. This display hit Jeanie & I like a ton of bricks as we always set an extra place at the table each year for special occasion’s like birthdays and Christmas in memory of our family members who are no longer with us. Our very own “Empty Chair”.

"Empty Chair's" by Mike Yorke

Riding away from the National Arboretum Memorial a feeling of calm descends over me and I can hold my head up high knowing that once again the biking community has held fast and proved we are 100% behind our Armed Forces.


“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them”.

“We Will Remember Them”

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