Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Lorry driver to deliver for charity retracing Grandfather’s Dunkirk evacuation

A Tesco Distribution HGV driver, from Eastleigh, is looking to deliver much-needed funds to an Armed Forces charity when he revisits his grandfather’s escape route from Dunkirk in World War II.

Steve Berry, 57, who spent 10 years in the Territorial Army – with occasional secondments to full-time regiments – is participating in Help for Heroes’ largest annual fundraiser, the Big Battlefield Bike Ride (BBBR), which, this year, follows in the footsteps of the British Expeditionary Force and tells the story of Operation Dynamo, when more than 338,000 troops were evacuated from Dunkirk, in May and June 1940.

Berry will be joined by three friends from the Eastleigh Cycling Group – John Carpenter, 56, an area fundraising manager for Help for Heroes; Dan Piernicki, 43, a contracts manager for an asbestos surveying and consultancy company; and Danny Thorn, 50, head of development for a traffic management contractor – as he cycles more than 300 miles of Northern France, from Étretat to Dunkirk, between Sunday 11 June and Friday 16 June.

Berry, a regular fundraiser for the Armed Forces charity, is looking forward to visiting the region which played such a big part in his grandfather’s wartime memories.

He said:

“He was a despatch rider with the Royal Artillery as part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 and was evacuated at Dunkirk – on one of the naval ships, not the legendary little ships. Obviously, I’m very proud of his wartime service and it will be fascinating to be, in a small way, following in his footsteps.”

Having served himself with the 2nd Battalion Wessex Regiment and the Royal Yeomanry D (Berkshire Yeomanry) squadron, Berry has retained close links with the military since changing his career to lorry driving and has supported Help for Heroes since its inception, 15 years ago.

He explained:

“I have a sense of debt to the services and want to support fellow veterans in any way that I can. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had the support of my employer in gaining access to – and support from – Tesco stores in the area, in particular Winchester and Bursledon, which have allowed me to fundraise within the stores.

“Tesco Distribution has allowed me time off to attend the BBBR in June and will, hopefully, also contribute up to 20 per cent of my fundraising total, up to a maximum of £2,000 extra. What’s more, I have had great support from other local businesses that have, kindly, hosted collection tins for me as part of my fundraising efforts.”

That support and assistance has allowed Berry to raise more than £3,100 already, four months out from the start of the cycling odyssey. Together, the quartet have already secured more than £11,000 in sponsorship, with more collections and fundraisers across the region planned for the next few months.

It is the first such ride for three of the group, but the fourth outing for Carpenter, who will be retracing the steps of his grandfather, too, who was also evacuated from Dunkirk. He believes the BBBR is a unique and unforgettable experience.

He explained:

“The fundraising element is important, obviously, but it’s also about friendship and setting yourself a challenge. It’s not a race: it’s about completing, not competing, and nobody is left behind.

“Speaking to some of the riders who’ve been involved since the first ride, in 2008, many have made friends with people they’ve met on their first ride and have then cycled with them every year since. It’s hard not to be inspired when you’re cycling with veterans and dedicated supporters.”

The trip also features unique history tours and ceremonial memorial events led by the charity’s own team of historians. It also includes transport and transfers throughout the challenge; ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, coach transfers and ferry home; six nights’ accommodation; meals and refreshments; mechanical support; and an exclusive BBBR cycling jersey and medal.

Places are still available on the ride and the closing date for applications is 10 March.

Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 27,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.

For more information or to sign up for the BBBR 2023, please visit: To support Steve Berry’s fundraising efforts, please visit:


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