The Forces March Sunday 25th May

On Behalf Of The Veterans Charity

Bulford & Lark Hill

Scribe Mike Boxall

In At The Finish

1st Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums at The Forces March

25th May 2014

 

Carter Barracks, Salisbury Plain – pictures of Victorian barrack blocks, a vast parade square and an immaculate Guard House come to mind. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot when we get there...

 

It turned out that Carter Barracks was hard to spot, mainly because it had been demolished in the 1970s. Even in its heyday in the 1940s, the barracks had consisted mainly of single storey wooden huts, not Victorian buildings.

 

But those huts had a bearing on why we had come. In 1942 they were home to 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, a glider-borne infantry battalion. On D-Day, D Company and parts of B Company of the ‘Ox and Bucks’ were to achieve a crucial early success in capturing what became known as Pegasus Bridge.

 

As part of their training, the battalion had spent two months of cliff climbing and exercises in Devon culminating in a march back to Carter Barracks - some 135 miles! The first Company got back to base on the evening of the fifth day, a feat that has inspired The Forces March, one of today’s top UK endurance events.

 

In The Forces March, runners, walkers and hand cyclists cover the 135 miles from Ilfracombe, North Devon, to Carter Barracks in five highly demanding and challenging stages. Over previous years The Forces March has raised in excess of £250,000 for The Veterans Charity, a charity that supports veterans by providing ‘modest’ help, like household items and communication equipment, that can be delivered without red tape or delay.

 

To support this unique fund-raising challenge, The Cinque Ports Corps had pledged to play at the final refreshment point and finishing line for the event. So it was that, on 25th May, two minibuses and a selection of cars circled the lanes of Wiltshire looking in vain for the imposing Victorian buildings of Carter Barracks.    

 

When we’d all finally arrived, having twigged that Carter Barracks consisted of empty fields and a rusty signpost, we had a quick run-through of our display routine, then kitted up and drove to the final refreshment point. On arrival the Drum Major carefully measured the ambient air temperature and wind speed at several likely spots and then formed us up under the trees in the coldest and windiest spot of all.  

 

Nothing daunted, we shivered our way through a selection of our marches and retreats marvelling at the commitment of the event participants as they jogged, marched or hobbled past.

 

 

 

 

Home.2014 Review.Clandon 2014.London OCA Parade.Lions Fun Fest.Armed Forces Day.Wet & Dry.Pearlies 2014.

 

After a very welcome cup of tea, we formed up and marched part of the way back leading a group of Somerset’s finest - Somerset Cadet Battalion (The Rifles) ACF. Wussing out after about half a mile and leaving the Cadets to march on, we drove back to Carter Barracks and set up our music stands either side of the finishing line to play in the remaining marchers.

 

In the end our display routine wasn’t needed so, when the last marchers had been played and cheered home, we changed and joined the participants, organisers and supporters in the queue for the hog roast. As the carnivores among us munched on their roasted meats and the herbivores had a cup of coffee, the concluding speeches were made and well-deserved prizes distributed.

 

As we wove our way out of the fields of Carter Barracks we could look back on an inspiring day supporting The Veterans Charity and the heroic participants in The Forces March. Hopefully our music had spurred a few marchers on as they approached the finish.

 

To find out more about The Veterans Charity and The Forces March, see our Links section for their website URLs.    

 

 Mike Boxall

 

More photos at the 2014 Gallery

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