Pedalling Padre leads prayers for wounded heroes
Jesuit chaplain, Fr Roger Dawson SJ, was among the 1000+ cyclists who brought central London to a halt yesterday afternoon, as they completed the 2014 Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride from Brussels to Paris through the First World War battlefields.
The final stage involved the cyclists, along with hundreds of well-wishers and volunteers, riding from Blackheath to a ceremony at the Centotaph in Whitehall before cycling down the Mall to finish at Horseguards Parade. They were met by former Chief of the General Staff and Help for Heroes President, General Lord Dannatt, who was Fr Roger’s Company Second-in-Command when he was at Sandhurst.
During the week, the Big Battlefield Bike Ride with over 250 cyclists had made its way from Brussels to Paris. Once they got to Paris, several riders including injured servicemen met Her Majesty the Queen as part of the 70th anniversary of D-Day celebrations. Bryn Parry, Co-Founder of Help for Heroes, was able to tell the Queen that the charity has now raised £200m in less than seven years.
Once across the English Channel, the riders were joined on Sunday morning by other UK riders - from Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Wiltshire - for the final ten miles. They were accompanied from Blackheath by cycling legend Mark Cavendish and scores of self-organised DIY rides from across the UK.
Bryn Parry, who served with Fr Roger in the Royal Green Jackets, said: “This year’s annual Hero Ride has seen hundreds of cyclists gather on the streets of London in the biggest national demonstration of support for our wounded heroes. The funds raised will be used to support the wounded and their families who have already given so much on our behalf.
“Soldiers, sailors and airmen who are injured today will still need our support tomorrow and in the days that follow, for the rest of their lives. They are still battling and we won't let them battle alone.”
At 2pm on Sunday 8 June, the cyclists paused at The Cenotaph on Whitehall to lay wreaths and pay respects to those who have fallen or been injured in combat. Fr Roger – known as the Pedalling Padre – addressed the crowds, estimated to be over 2,000-strong. Accompanied by Mark and Peta Cavendish, they formed in the shape of the familiar Help for Heroes medal emblem, encompassing the Cenotaph and surrounding the monument with wounded veterans, servicemen and women.
“I know about how much training and dedication has to go in to a cycling event like Hero Ride,” said Help for Heroes Patron Mark Cavendish. “You have to be so disciplined and all of the cyclists taking part on Sunday have a great cause in Help for Heroes that they’re fighting for.
“I am delighted to have started the riders and joined them on their final ten miles into central London. I hope as many people as possible support the challenge, donate to Help for Heroes and celebrate each rider completing their own personal challenge.”
Dozens of organised bike rides took place in the lead up to Sunday’s finale, all helping Help for Heroes reach their fundraising aim for the Hero Ride of over £1 million.
This is the fifth year that Fr Roger Dawson SJ has undertaken the Help for Heroes Bike Ride as chaplain. To sponsor him, please follow this link.
Photo: Fr Roger Dawson SJ leads prayers at a cemetery along the Big Battlefield Bike Ride route.