Charity cycle ride to honour fallen Gulf War comrades visits Marham

RAF veterans Mal Craghill and Martin Wintermeyer cycled through Marham in June as part of a 690 mile challenge; the Tornado Tribute Tour of England. The challenge, raising money for the Royal Air Forces Association, is in memory of friends and colleagues killed training for and during the first Gulf War.

Mal and Martin were all set for their Tornado Tribute Tour of England (TTTE) to start on 19 February. Lockdown three put paid to their plans for this ride, but the intrepid pair were not deterred. After training hard for months, Mal and Martin started their ride in Cornwall on 18 June and will finish in Washington, Tyne and Wear, on Sunday 27 June.

In a small service at Marham cemetery, attended by members of RAF Marham and former Tornado colleagues, they commemorated Flight Lieutenant Max Collier of 27 Squadron and Squadron Leader Kevin Weeks of 16 Squadron. Navigator Max was killed in action, along with his pilot Wing Commander Nigel Elsdon on 17 January 1991, when their Tornado was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a raid on an Iraqi airfield. Kevin, also a navigator, died on 22 January 1991, together with his pilot Squadron Leader Garry Lennox. Their aircraft failed to return from a low-level mission against enemy positions. 

On their way up the country, Mal and Martin were visiting and laying wreaths at all the English grave sites of the Tornado aircrew lost in the Middle East 30 years ago, and had visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay their respects at the Gulf War Memorial and the Armed Forces Memorial. 

The latter commemorates not just the seven Tornado aircrew killed on deployed operations, but also those lost in training accidents in the UK. They will also remember the two pilots from the RAF Jaguar force who were killed. 

In total Mal and Martin will honour the memory of 13 RAF and one US Air Force aircrew.

Mal and Martin had originally hoped to raise £10,000 for the Royal Air Forces Association, the charity that supports the RAF family, but their final total from individual donations was a tremendous £32,240, which rose to £41,340 with corporate support. 

Martin said: “Mal and I want to thank everyone who has supported us so far, from our sponsors, to those who joined us virtually on our training rides, to those who have kindly made donations to the RAF Association and most of all to the families of the guys we lost. Their support has meant so much to us.”

Mal added: “We have been preparing for this ride for almost a year, so it is great to finally get going. The ride will give us both the opportunity to think and reflect, and process the grief we weren’t able to confront 30 years ago.”

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