Sunday 13th May saw the 3rd and, very sadly, the last Dambusters Cycle Ride, set off from Coleg Sir Gâr in perfect cycling conditions on what was, fittingly, the 75th Anniversary of the original Dambusters Raid.
Listening intently to Wyn’s pre-ride speech in Coleg Sir Gâr
Before the event started, DBF Ambassador and event organiser, Wyn Jenkins, gathered the riders together to break the news that this was to be the last Dambusters Cycle Ride. Following a speech by DBF CEO, David Bickers, Wyn expressed his regret that the ride hadn’t attracted more amputee and disabled cyclists as had been his original intention but was glad to see around 140 riders, including 3 amputees; Jeanette Adams, Linda Chen and DBF Ambassador, Margaret “Maggz” Biggs, as well as Marathon Runner Extraordinaire and all round inspiration, Major Sally Orange, riding on behalf of mental health charity, Heads Together, taking part. Wyn had originally only intended to run the event for a year and felt that although the ride had had 2 wonderful years and this promised to be the best yet, with it not having achieved its original objective and competition increasing from other rides and sporting events in the area at around the same date, he was keen to go out with it on a high.
While we were sorry to learn that this event, which had become a firm favourite on the DBF calendar, was to end, we were extremely grateful to Wyn for all his efforts in coming up with the unique Dambusters concept and organising and running such a hugely enjoyable and successful event; to Wyn’s wife, Marg, for her tireless and invaluable help; to Sandra and Peter Jones of CMC Cycling Club, Llandeilo and all their members for 3 years of unstinting support and, of course, to all the riders who have taken part over the 3 years for the funds they have raised for the charity. Without you all the Dambusters Cycle Ride wouldn’t have been possible. We will miss this event very much but are so grateful to Wyn and all who have helped to make it such a resounding success.
As if in support of Wyn’s decision, everything conspired to make this the perfect Dambusters finale. In his pre-ride speech, Wyn had reminded everyone in the room that the purpose of the ride was to honour the brave men who had set off on the Dambusters raids 75 years previously. Strangely, there were the same number of people waiting to ride as there had been waiting to take off on that fateful day. It was a poignant moment when Wyn mentioned that, of those men, only half had returned. He encouraged as many of the riders as possible to forego the race element of the ride and undertake the event as a team in solidarity with the original Dambusters and the memory of those who never returned that day. He also asked that riders who didn’t have afternoon commitments, convene at the Llyn Brianne Reservoir and Dam for 12.00 noon to see the flypast by the 2 DBF planes piloted by an amputee and a paraplegic, both members of the new “Bader’s Bus Company Still Running” initiative, as those pilots were also giving up their time to be there.
Riders set off on a perfect cycling morning; slightly chilly but with clear blue skies promising warmer weather to come. True to Wyn’s wishes, there was a good gathering of cyclists and supporters at the Llyn Brianne food station, manned by DBF team members, Sergeant Wendy McCleave and Officer-of-inferior-standing, Martin McCleave, with valued (vital) support from DBF CEO, David Bickers and assistant-in-chief, Sharon, before midday, enjoying refreshments and the stunning scenery. Just before noon, we all gathered on the dam and with immaculate timing, the sound of aeroplane engines could be heard in the distance. It was a truly moving and spine-tingling moment as the 2 ‘planes, one proudly bearing the DBF livery, came into view flying low over the reservoir in memory of those Dambuster pilots who so skilfully and courageously braved anti-aircraft fire and perilously low-altitude flying to drop their “bouncing bombs” on the water, destroying 2 of the 3 target dams and altering the course of the war. Of course, as Wyn pointed out, there are no real winners in war and the raid cost the lives of numerous German civilians in the resultant flooding of the valley. We all remembered them and the pilots who also died as the DBF ‘planes made their 2 formation passes over the water. A very poignant moment.
The Flypast: Video courtesy of Jeanette Adams
(If the video doesn’t play, you can see it on the Dambusters Facebook Page – link at the bottom of this post.)
The riders then slowly dispersed to wind their way back through the beautiful Welsh landscape between Llyn Brianne and their destination, The Finish at Coleg Sir Gâr, Llandeilo, where they were presented with a reward medal and very welcome and well deserved hot soup, bread and cheese, drinks and, where required, massages. Our thanks to the extremely efficient caterers and to Sarah Jayne Rees and her seemingly tireless team of masseurs.
It had been a wonderful day and a perfect finale to what has been a fantastic and very popular event. A celebratory supper ensued at the Cawdor Hotel in Llandeilo and we are grateful to CMC and Cawdor manager, Tim, for a delicious buffet. To Dennis, who didn’t disappoint sartorially – thank you, Dennis – for the singalong and to all there for being the best company and support a charity could ever wish for.
I have to end with a special and heartfelt thank you to Wyn. As we drove along the route between the start and setting up at the reservoir, passing numerous bespoke, themed signs guiding cyclists on not just one but two separate routes, it was impossible not to be aware of the huge amount of work that he had put into this event on behalf of the DBF over the past 3 years. We’ll truly miss it, Wyn. Thank you.
- Previous Dambusters Posts: https://www.douglasbaderfoundation.com/?s=Dambusters&from=dbf
- Dambusters Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/The-DamBuster-Cycle-Ride-1518533518448277/