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Magnificent tribute to the fallen by thousands of bikers
Thousands of motorcyclists from all over the UK descended on the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay tribute to fallen servicemen and women. The annual pilgrimage, held on Saturday 5 October, saw more than 7,000 motorcyclists take part in this year's Ride to the Wall event. Now in its 12th year, Ride to the Wall brings together bikers from the length and breadth of Britain, and further afield, to remember those who 'can no longer ride by our side'. The event and has generated almost £1 million to support the 150-acre site at Alrewas, near Lichfield, including £151,000 in 2018 alone. The culmination of the pilgrimage is a service before the Armed Forces Memorial which carries the names of service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice since the Second World War, many of them fallen comrades of the riders who took part.
Manyt of the bikes were adorned with flags. Credit National Memorial Arboretum
Most of the thousands of riders arrived in convoy after departing from one of 11 designated start locations around the country. As the motorcycles approached the Arboretum they were greeted by David 'Blu' Andrew, a veteran of Northern Ireland, who every year stands to attention for five hours, saluting every rider as they pass by, regardless of the weather. Following the Service of Remembrance there was thunderous applause as Anthony 'Coops' Cooper walked up the steps of the Armed Forces Memorial to lay a wreath on the central plinth. 'Coops' was critically injured by an IED in Afghanistan, losing both legs, his right eye, two fingers on one hand and fingertips from the other, and had longed to one day be able to climb the memorial to honour his fallen comrades.
David 'Blu' Andrew salutes the arriving riders. Credit National Memorial Arboretum
Philippa Rawlinson, Managing Director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: "This is my first ever Ride to the Wall and the sight of thousands of riders streaming in to pay their respects is simply incredible. Our events programme offers a wide variety of ways for people to engage with the concept of Remembrance and today provides a fantastic example of people coming together from across the UK and further afield to pay their respects in their own way. The Arboretum is the nation's year-round centre of Remembrance and we are immensely grateful for the ongoing generosity of the Ride to the Wall family who has raised almost £1 million for the Arboretum to date, ensuring that we can remain a place for people to reflect and be inspired as they commemorate lives lost in service."
The crowd at the Service of Remembrance. Credit National Memorial Arboretum
Martin Dickinson, the founder of Ride to the Wall, said: "Each year we gather at Ride to the Wall to remember those who can no longer ride by our side. We ride to make sure that the names on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial will never be forgotten. Since the first Ride to the Wall in 2008, we have raised almost £1 million to support the National Memorial Arboretum and to ensure it remains a place where people can come and pay tribute to the fallen."
RTTW founder Martin Dickinson with other riders in front of the Armed Forces Memorial. Credit National Memorial Arboretum