It was a herculean effort but they made it after 10 hours in the saddle going nowhere.
A group of army veterans cycled to Afghanistan without leaving Huddersfield town centre to raise around £2,000 for a café in the town which is primarily a place for veterans to meet up .
The 15 former soldiers did the ride on static cycles in rainy St George’s Square for Tommy’s Lounge on nearby Station Street, starting at 8am on Saturday (Aug 5) and finishing at 6.30pm.
Some of them rode virtually non-stop, boosted by music and banter. Several passersby even joined in on the ride to give the soldiers a breather.
The aim was for them to cycle the distance from Brize Norton RAF airfield in Oxfordshire to Afghanistan where the riders had been deployed during their service days.
The distance is 3,751 miles so they rode 3,000 miles and then did 751 press-ups.
Organiser Dominic Hern, originally from Meltham but now living in Mirfield, was in the same Yorkshire Regiment platoon as Pte Tom Wroe, 18, from Meltham, and Sgt Gareth Thursby, 29, from Skipton, who were both killed by a rogue Afghan policeman at an army checkpoint in September 2012.
Veterans have raised money to buy a wrought iron bench to place in Skipton in memory of Gareth and the £500 left over from that fundraising has also gone to Tommy’s.
People can donate to the Tommy’s Lounge cycle ride appeal by going to https://www.gofundme.com/f/sergeant-gareth-thursby
Dominic, 30, said: “All the lads who served in the Yorkshire Regiment still remember Tom and Gaz so well. Serving together forms a bond which never breaks.
“Doing the 3,000 miles on the static cycles was a tough ask. It was all down to teamwork but some had to ride all day and eat while cycling to get through it and make sure we made the 3,000 miles.
“People were brilliant supporting us. Passersby asked why were doing it and then some even insisted on jumping on the bikes just to give the lads a quick rest. Everyone was so committed to the cause so it was a great day.
“Tommy’s needs every penny so absolutely everything anyone threw into the buckets counted. Tommy’s Lounge is such a special place. I’ve never heard of anywhere like it and it’s a safe haven for many veterans.
“It means several veterans who left the forces a while back are now meeting up again and starting to talk about their experiences in places like Afghanistan. As a group of veterans we have become a lot closer because of Tommy’s Lounge which is why we are so keen to help support it in any way we can.
“There has been a major move forward with men talking about their mental health over the last five or 10 years and places like Tommy’s Lounge really encourage it. Veterans are starting to come out of their shells.”
Members of the public are also more than welcome to go to Tommy’s Lounge too.
It was set up by Jennie Thorn, a sports therapist who has helped amputees and people with severe injuries learn to have confidence in themselves again.
She had already set up Behind The Heroes community interest company in Mirfield to help former veterans, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or struggling to get back into civilian life.
The veterans have also helped to give the place its own unique feel by donating maps, army tunics, RAF uniform, berets and lots of other military memorabilia for the lounge.
It’s open from 7am to 2pm Tuesday to Friday and from 10am to 3pm on Saturdays so is an ideal spot for early morning commuters to pop in for a drink or cooked breakfast. Their speciality is German Bratwurst and Currywurst as many of the veterans served in Germany.
To find out more about Tommy’s Lounge go to the website at https://www.tommyslounge.coffee/ or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TommysLoungeHuddersfield?locale=ms_MY
They are also on TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@tommyslounge
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.