RUN TO PEGASUS - EVENT REPORT
After almost 3 years of planning and preparation, the Run To Pegasus finally started on Tuesday 4th June at the site of the former Tarrant Rushton Airfield in Dorset.
Close to 100 runners and around 40 support crew members gathered to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in fine style.
After checking in, there was a detailed briefing and then, just before 1800hrs, the runners assembled on the start line and after a short address by General Sir Robert Pascoe, they were given the order to go by Normandy Veteran, Reg Charles, who landed at Arromanches on Gold Beach on D+18 with his comrades from 1 Oxf & Bucks.
The group included several runners who had taken part in a similar event we hosted 10 years before, as well as relatives of the very men we were honouring, current service personnel from the RIFLES Regt, 6 Army Air Corps, RAMC and Royal Engineers. We were also joined by many Veterans and a few 'ultra-runners' including Phil Hammond who ran all the way from his home in Leeds, 250 miles away, as part of a massive 325 mile challenge!
The runners pushed on throughout the night and into the 5th June along a route through rural Dorset, the New Forest, Southampton, Fareham and Portsmouth.
They received amazing support alll the way from many locals who came out to cheer them on, some, even in the middle of the night!
The water points were a very welcome sight for the group and in Lyndhurst, the team at the Community Centre laid on amazing hot meals and a very warm welcome for the whole group.
The early runners began arriving in Portsmouth around 0900hrs on 5th June and the entire group made it by early evening - an incredible feat given that they had to cover 62 miles to get there!
The ferry sailed just after 2200hrs and after a smooth crossing, arrived at Ouistreham at the far end of Sword Beach, at 0645hrs, around the same time, 75 years after men began landing on the same beach!
We had allowed plenty of time to disembark, clear customs and gather together ready for the next leg so it was the perfect time to get a couple of group photos to mark the occassion. The group was joined at Ouistreham by Barry Tappenden, a former founding Trustee of The Veterans Charity and son of one of the men we were honouring on the run, Cpl Ted Tappenden.
At 1000hrs on the dot, the group set off along the Caen Canal towpath bound for the legendary Pegasus Bridge. Each runner wore a special commemorative top which carried the name on one of the men on the back - a very emotional and poignant element for everyone involved. Barry Tappenden carried his father's name and arrived on the bridge and Landing Zone, 75 years after Ted had landed with his comrades.
A huge welcome greeted the group when they arrived at the bridge including the Ringwood Pipe Band who marched them across the bridge, through a guard of honour formed by members of The Rifles Regiment.
Once gathered on the Landing Zone and in the shadow of the statue of Major John Howard, the group were addressed by General Pascoe once again and also received a few kind words from Mr Salvatore Bellomo, Mayor of Benouville.
A short break followed which gave the group time to sort tents and kit at our camp area, kindly provided by the community of Benouville, before they reassembled at the Memorial Pegasus Museum ready to be transported to the River Dives for the final section of our epic adventure.
A couple of miles outside the village of Varaville, on the D27, lies a bridge over the River Dives. It was here that no4 Glider of the Coup de Main assault group landed, just after midnight, on the 6th June 1944, having been towed off course.
To commemorate the remarkable courage and to honour the men who battled almost continuously for 24 hours thereafter to reunite with their comrades, we unveiled a special plaque on the bridge to mark the spot where they landed.
The group then set off an a very emotional 10mile march which included stops at Herouvillette and Ranville to lay wreaths to some of the men they were representing. Two former Paratroopers, Tim Dedman and Paul Freear, laid a wreath to Pte Robert 'Bobby' Johns who was killed aged just 16 in July 1944. Others we honoured were:
Lt HD Brotheridge - Ranville Churchyard
Pte E Everett - Ranville
Pte D Pepperall - Ranville
Pte A Summersby - Ranville
Pte E Corteil and his dog, Glen - Ranville
LCPl F Minns - Herouvillette
LCpl C Barwick - Herouvillette
The group arrived at the museum at 1730hrs and gathered around our memorial in the grounds for a final ceremony to mark the end of an extraordinary, emotional and memorable event.
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported the runners on their journey, all the fabulous water point venues, the amazing staff and volunteers at Lyndhurst Community Centre, Gary at Communications Southern Ltd, Richard at Beyond Marathon Ltd, Brittany Ferries, PHVC Leasing in Fareham for their magnificent support, Memorial Pegasus Museum for their friendship and support, our many sponsors who so kindly provided yummy snacks and drinks which kept the runners going throughout the arduous 62 miles in the UK, the wonderful JSA Service for their incredible sponsorship (one of the Directors, Allan Wilkinson, was amonsgt the runner taking part and somehow did it with just 5 weeks notice too!!), our ever-brilliant volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep everything in order and of course, to the incredible runners who somehow managed to do this!
So far, close to £100,000 has been generated by the Run To Pegasus which will help us to deliver even more support to Veterans in need!