Elm cyclist Peter Bryant is on a poignant mission to France
- Credit: Archant
Elm businessman Peter Bryant is set to cycle 250 miles through Northern France to raise cash for charity and to pay homage to three members of his family killed at the Somme.
Mr Bryant, who runs Corylus Business Systems, will join the Ride to the Somme, which is being organised to mark the 100th anniversary of the bloody battle, described as the blackest day in British military history.
The riders will complete their journey over four days arriving at Somme on September 3.
Mr Bryant, who has completed rides in aid of Help the Heroes in the past, has carried out research into his family’s history and found he lost three family members at the Somme.
These include brothers David and Arthur Bryant - Peter’s great, great uncles.
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David died on the first day of the battle on July 1 1916, and Arthur was killed on September 3.
Another of Peter’s relatives Ernest Cartman was killed on the last day of the battle November 18.
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A fourth family member died a couple of weeks after being gassed during a battle at Ypres in 1918. He actually died in Brighton as a result of the gas.
Mr Bryant, who is looking to raise £1,300 for SSAFA - the services charity - has also been reunited with a long lost cousin as a result of his connection with Ride to the Somme.
He said: “I signed up on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War which aims to remember every single one of those killed. I put down the names of my relatives and then noticed someone was also remembering Arthur.
“The museum helped me to make contact and it turned out it was a grandson of Arthur’s and we are going to meet up. Together we have pieced together information and managed to join a lot of dots.”
Mr Bryant said his father was a keen amateur historian and was particularly interested in the First World War and donated money towards the cost of the memorial to the missing and unnamed fallen of the Somme at Thiepval.
He said: “Dad is listed as a donor at Thiepval, but he gave the money not realising that his great uncle David is named on it. Arthur was buried at Bernafay Woods and we will visit his grave 100 years to the day that he died on September 3.
“It is going to be a very poignant day. My dad died of cancer a few years ago and his last wish was to visit Somme, and we went just a few weeks before his death, so there will be all kinds of memories for me.”
Mr Bryant has a blog that helps people search for WW1 relatives: http://firstworldwaronthisday.blogspot.co.uk/
Bloodiest battle in human conflict:
The Battle of the Somme is recognised as one of the bloodiest battles in human conflict with over one million casualties over a four month period in 1916.
At the beginning of the First World War the British Army was a relatively small force and was increased rapidly by volunteers with often whole streets and villages seeing every available man enlist.
A hundred years on people today are the last that will have spoken directly to those that fought on the Somme.
Today cycling is a wide ranging leisure activity but in 1914 times were very different. Throughout the UK there were 15 designated cycling battalions who were absorbed into the Army Cycling Corps.
Many stayed in the UK as part of home defence while others, and their bikes, headed to France and the frontline.
Less expensive than motorbikes and used by most people in ordinary day life, the cycle was an everyday reconnaissance and communication weapon in the fight against the enemy.
Ride to the Somme is a three day cycle over 200 miles which will culminate by paying respects at The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval which lists the 72,195 missing British and African soldiers that have no known grave.
The riders will also pay specific respects to members of the Army Cycling Corps who are commemorated at the nearby cemetery in Pozieres.
Such an event is an ideal opportunity to raise money and so SSAFA the UK’s oldest military charity, who played a crucial role in World War One supporting families and soldiers upon their return home, has been chosen to benefit from September’s ride.
Andrew Jones, one of the ride’s organisers said: “We are still seeking riders to enlist. Entries will close at the end of May.”
Further details can be seen at: http://www.ridetothesomme.org.uk/
Charity has been supporting military families for over a 100 years:
SSAFA is the longest serving national tri-service military charity.
For 130 years, it has provided lifelong support to those who are serving or have ever served in our armed forces.
Today nearly five million people living in the United Kingdom are estimated to have served in the armed forces at some point in their lives.
Every year, around 20,000 servicemen and women leave the services and return to civilian life.
That’s why the charity’s work is so important as it supports those who have served their country when they need it.
Support covers both regulars and reserves in the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force and their families, including anyone who has completed National Service. They are all entitled to lifelong support from SSAFA, no matter how long they have served.
Every year it supports 50,000 people – that’s 136 every day.
To find out more about visit the SSAFA website: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/