Every year I sit here wondering what to write. Every year my eyes fill with tears as I look at the photo’s I’ve taken, photo’s my close friends have taken and skim through the countless YouTube Video’s that flood the site for weeks after the event.
"Lest We Forget"
Riding to meet my mates from the Manc Riders at our designated RV point, the BP garage on the A556, Bucklow Hill everything felt strange.
Sadly Lilie Rose had been ill all week which meant Jeannie was not with me. Ben was on a sleep-over so I was alone. My new Garmin 350LM decided not to work, little did I realise I’d accidentally deleted all the maps from the device the previous night and to hack me off even further, my iPhone decided not to play my music.
For the first time in 5 years I decided to take the M60 South circular past Stockport. Don’t ask me why because I really have no idea. As it turned out it was the right thing to do. My normal route across the M60, M62 towards Liverpool then dropping down onto the M6 was closed due to an accident.
Arriving at the BP Garage I was met by a sole rider on a scooter!
“Hi, are you one of the Manc Riders?” I was asked
“I am that” I replied with pride.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the motley crew started to arrive.
The Manc Riders
We all had a right good old catch up as I’ve been all over the place lately and missed a far few “gatherings” which usually involve “Compo’s Chippy”.
After a good half hour we all mounted up and rode the short distance to the official RTTW 2013 RV point.
RTTW 2013 here we come
Bez had kindly posted up the itinerary for this year event which read:-
Order of Events - RTTW 2013
10.30 - 1.30 Royal Veterinary Corp Dog Display Team
10.30 - 10.45 Mark Pidgeon - Folk Music on Heroes Square
10.45 - 10.55 Pipers mobile
Pause in proceedings for daily 11am service
11.10 - 11.20 City of Derby ATC Rifle Drill Parade below the Armed Forces Memorial
11.30 - 11.50 Military Wives performance below the Armed Forces Memorial
12.00 - 12.15 Pipers with Dedicated Music below the Armed Forces Memorial
Main Flag bearers start arriving at 12.20
12.45 - 1.00 Mark Pidgeon - Folk Music on Heroes Square
1.15 - 1.25 City of Derby ATC Rifle Drill Parade below the Armed Forces Memorial
1.30 - 1.45 Military Wives performance below the Armed Forces Memorial
1.50 - 1.55 You are not Fallen solo by Emma Munro-Wilson
1.55 - 2.00 Pipers
2.00 - 2.05 Red Devils Parachute Display Team
2.10 Welcome from Founder - Martin Dickinson
2.12 Short address by Major General Lamont Kirkland - Patron RTTW
2.15 Short address by Air Commodore Simon Richardson - Senior RAF representative to RTTW
2.18 Short address by Sarah Montgomery - MD National Memorial Arboretum
2.20 Service conducted by Mike Brotherton
2.30 Last post followed by a minute’s silence
2.35 Wreath laying led Dave Smith (piper) followed by Martin Dickinson and Major General Kirkland
Knutsford Services was unusually quite but the word soon spread of the accident just one junction North.
Knutsford RV for RTTW 2013
After a coffee and a trip to the loo it was almost time to head South to the National Memorial Arboretum to attend the 6th RTTW and my 5th attendance.
I had to smile in the services when the guy in front of me asked were the loo was. I pointed him in the right direction and he replied.
“You been to the RTTW before?”
“Yes a few times”
“I’ve been up all night, my misses thinks I’m mad, I couldn't sleep all night, I’m that exited”
The ride down was a little fraught this year, possible compounded by the fact the drivers had been stuck in the road block for so long. Still it was a nice feeling being surrounded by 100’s of other like minded bikers.
Just clearing the M6 Toll was fun!
How BIG is that Grin Lefty?
On our arrival at the National Memorial Arboretum we were professionally guided to our parking area, somewhat off the beaten track due to the fields around being full to capacity.
A little off the beaten track
There's always ONE!
A Sea of Bikes
The Army Wives were in full flow and sounding amazing.
It only took a few minutes for the Manc Riders to take up residence in our regular spot under the “Mercian Regimental Flag”. A place we have occupied for the last three years.
A Time to Remember
The rest of the day is something of a blur. The words spoken were thoughtful and full of respect. All of us having our own personal thoughts and feelings. There was a huge Flag Flying Bikers ride by, a spectacle I will never forget.
The City of Derby ATC Rifle Drill Parade put on a display of synchronized marching to some totally wild pop tunes which was both a welcome break from the solemnity of the occasion and simply fantastic to see. So young and yet so 100% dedicated. They were outstanding. As were the Red Devils Parachute Display Team.
The Red Devils were Outstanding
The order of service ran a smooth as clockwork.
After yet another hilarious joke followed by a truly thought provoking trip back to World War 2 by Mike Brotherton, dressed as ever in his patch covered ‘Parker’, our thoughts were drawn back to just why we were in attendance.
We stood in total silence.
“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”
All too soon the day was drawn to a close.Heading back to the bike I found the issue with my iPhone not playing music, the volume was on zero! Sadly the Garmin remained resolutely blank. (That was until I re-installed the maps the following night).
We were all going to have a ride out to a nice pub for dinner but as we set off I felt that pang of loneliness and as the guys filled up with petrol I bid my farewell. With one of the lads in tow, I headed towards Stock -on-Trent and onwards up the M6 heading home to Jeannie, Lilie Rose and Ben.
It’s always hard to describe how I feel about the RTTW but I’ve got to be honest and say the overwhelming feeling this year was one of sadness. Listening to the shear number of losses our forces have taken in Afghanistan and the preceding conflicts is just heart breaking. Not having Jeannie there to share this wonderful show of respect for our beloved Armed Forces with me made it all the harder to deal with. Still I was surrounded by true friends who in their own way know just how we all feel.
Sunday was dedicated to bringing Mr T back to his former glory which I’m pleased to say was achieved all be it with a little help form my friends. Cheers Steve, your an absolute gentleman.
Looking Good Oggy, Looking Good!
On a more personal note - My rides this year have all been subdued for one reason or another. Maybe I need to take a close look at what it is I’m really looking for when I ride off into the sunset as one thing is for sure. Riding with friends can be one of the most rewarding and pleasurable times of your life & sometimes not!