On the night of 16-17 May 1943, Wing Commander Guy Gibson led 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force on an audacious bombing raid to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley, the industrial heartland of Germany. The mission was codenamed Operation ‘Chastise’. The dams were fiercely protected. Torpedo nets in the water stopped underwater attacks and anti-aircraft guns defended them against enemy bombers. But 617 Squadron had a secret weapon: the ‘bouncing bomb’…
The 2nd DamBusters Cycle Ride took place on Sunday 14th May, marking as closely as possible, the anniversary of the famous Dambusters raid of 1943, with proceeds benefiting the Douglas Bader Foundation and the CMC Llandeilo Cycling Club. What a fantastic day! Our very sincere thanks and huge respect to DBF Ambassador, Wyn Jenkins, and his wife, Marg, for their heroic efforts in pulling off such a resounding success in the face of extreme adversity! This year saw around 170 riders starting, a considerable increase on last year with several hopeful participants regretfully being turned away having missed the deadline.
From beginning to end, the emphasis of this ride was about inclusion and enjoyment. There was, of course, the opportunity for the serious riders to get their times but, for others, it was a glorious opportunity to take in some of the most beautiful (hilly…) countryside in Wales in convivial and supportive company, being entertained and generously fed and watered along the way while raising funds for two worthy causes.
The ride started at Colleg Sir Gar on the outskirts of the lovely town of Llandeilo where the riders were briefed on their mission by Biggles 1 (alias Wyn Jenkins) and David Bickers, CEO of the DBF. From there, the riders could choose either the 35-mile (“Fighter Escort“) route or the more challenging 55-mile (“Target Mission“) route. This choice of routes makes the DamBusters ride the ideal Sportive for riders of all abilities and levels of experience and is perfect for those riding with some form of disability as there is also full back-up support at all stages of the ride.
Once “airborne” our riders’ mission was to make it to the Llynne Brianne Reservoir and Dam. On arrival, they were greeted by RAF Sergeant Martin McCleave, Landgirl (aka “Old Hippy”) Wendy McCleave and David and Charley Bickers, DBF CEO and support, and rewarded with much-needed refreshments. A flypast by 2 aeroplanes flown by disabled pilots from Aerobility was expected but, sadly, this highlight was seriously delayed owing to strong headwinds and, by the time a single aeroplane finally came slowly into view, most of the riders, in danger of hypothermia had they stayed, had started pedalling back down the hill to Headquarters. We are grateful to the brave pilots for their efforts in negotiating what were clearly very fierce gusts, to be there and we apologise that the size of the remaining crowd didn’t do justice to their achievement. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, there is no signal of any kind up at the reservoir so we were unable to receive or send information.
Heading home, our brave riders had another food stop and the opportunity to “fly” through some more of the gorgeous landscape as they took the return route via Llangadog. On arriving back at Headquarters, they were presented with a Mission Accomplished Medal souvenir of the day (thanks to Gemma Trotter’s son, Archie for his help) and restored with hot soup, bread and cheese before their journeys home. Congratulations to all who took part: some excellent times were recorded with the first group of riders seeming to reach the Dam only minutes after starting the ride! All though, competitive riders or not, professed to have enjoyed the day enormously and many have already stated their intention to take part again next year…..
…because, folks, we are delighted to report that the 3rd DamBusters Cycle Ride is going to take place next year! Wyn and Marg and their wonderful team of supporters are clearly suckers for punishment and we are so grateful that this most enjoyable event in the DBF calendar will be back by popular demand in 2018. Details can already be found on the bespoke Website.
In the meantime, our sincere thanks particularly to Wyn and Marg Jenkins for the original idea and for making the second year even better than the first*; to Peter and Sandra who run the CMC Llandeilo Cycling Club, for their support of this ride and their long-term support of the DBF; to Marianne, Jeff and all the other CMC Members who gave so unstintingly of their time and energy to perform all the jobs that go on behind the scenes to ensure the success of the day – without them, it simply wouldn’t be possible; to Tim, Manager of the Cawdor Hotel who
put up with, put up David and Charley Bickers for the weekend and managed to fit in being a ride Marshal as well (which made a possibly welcome change from riding for Team Bader last year, Tim!); to our wonderful Ambassadors, Margaret “Maggz” Biggs and Gemma Trotter and supporter, Linda, all lower limb amputees, who came along to ride, Maggz using her bespoke cycling prosthetic and Gemma riding one-legged – fantastic achievement all – and it was lovely to have them there; to Sonya Sanghani, author of Stumps and Cranks who came along to help. Not least to Dennis, “The German Spy in Our Midst” who brought a smile to everyone’s faces both during the ride and at the post-ride meal where his stylish attire also secured a £10 donation for the 2 causes. (A big thank you to the lovely couple who gave that very welcome spontaneous donation.) The singalong was a great idea, Dennis, request for the inclusion of “My Old Man” next time! There are too many people to thank individually but I hope you all know how very much your efforts are appreciated. It is a joy to be associated with all at the CMC – a truly friendly and inclusive club – and to meet, albeit briefly, all the riders who took part. Thank you all.
DamBusters 2018 (Sunday May 13th 2018): *There were a couple of blips this year (not saying what, or mentioning any names…!), which we will learn from and improve on next but our one big disappointment was that the ride didn’t attract more entries from amputees and those with other disabilities. This really is a hugely supportive, enjoyable and inclusive event and we really hope that next year we will have more of you taking part. Why not put the event in your calendars now so that you’ll have a whole year to prepare for it? We can’t guarantee the weather but we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a wonderful time whatever it throws at us next time! So, please join us on Sunday 13th May, 2018.
You can visit the DamBusters Facebook Page where you will find photos of the ride this year, information about next year’s event and much, much more by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/The-DamBuster-Cycle-Ride-1518533518448277/?fref=nf&pnref=story
Click HERE to learn more about the original Dambusters raid.
Follow the link to see the great video by Charley Bickers. It perfectly captures the spirit of this wonderful event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyssKTzM_pc&feature=youtu.be
A grateful mention to the fantastic Baron’s Court Caravan Park in Llangadog, where Martin and Wendy McCleave were based for the weekend. This has to be the best-equipped and most beautifully run CL site we have ever stayed in. If you’re looking for a place to park your camper or caravan near Llandeilo, we recommend it wholeheartedly.