A group of army veterans are cycling to Afghanistan … without leaving Huddersfield town centre.
The 20 former soldiers are doing the ride on static cycles in St George’s Square on Saturday, August 5, to raise money for Tommy’s Lounge on nearby Station Street.
The café is thought to be unique in the UK as it was set up primarily as a place for veterans to meet up and talk through their often traumatic experiences. Members of the public are also more than welcome.
The café needs funding so the veterans decided to set up 20 static bikes and will cycle 3,000 miles in around 10 hours to raise money.
That will still leave them 751 miles short of the distance of a flight from Brize Norton in the UK to Afghanistan so they’ll round it off with 751 push-ups.
Organiser Dominic Herd said: “All those doing the event served in the Yorkshire Regiment so are coming from Huddersfield, Halifax, Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield.
“We need to do all we can to support Tommy’s Lounge as it’s 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.
“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.
“I’m now seeing people I’d not seen for a long time and we have gelled again and talk things over.”
Dominic, 30, of Mirfield, served in the same platoon as Pte Tom Wroe (below, right) from Meltham who was killed in Afghanistan in September 2012 when he was just 18.
Dominic said: “Tom was an outstanding soldier. He made a great impression on everyone he met and would have gone far in the military. You can quickly spot soldiers with different qualities and Tom was certainly one of these.”
Tommy’s Lounge was set up by Jennie Thorn (above), 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.
Jennie said: “It’s one of a kind, the first of a kind and, hopefully, not the last of its kind. We are open to anyone, not just veterans. We have civilians who come in and are transfixed by the stories some of the veterans tell them about their time serving their country.”
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.
There will be a fundraiser this Saturday, July 29 at Tommy’s featuring pie and peas. The pies will come from Haigh’s Farm Shop with real mushy pies.
The event will feature some food challenges involving mini pork pies, a full English breakfast in a T-cake so big it’s known as a bin lid and one involving hot dogs for kids.
It’s a fundraising towards the cost of five new double sockets needed in the kitchen.
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.