Grand-daughter of WWI soldier to cycle 235 miles for blind veterans

18 March 2014 16:30

In the Centenary of WWI, the great-granddaughter of a World War One hero will cycle 235 miles through the battlefields of Northern France in his memory and to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK.

Rebecca Dorkins, who is the great-granddaughter of a First World War hero, has decided to cycle 235 miles from Folkestone to Paris for Blind Veterans UK.

The Unite and Bike for Heroes challenge is a six day bike ride through the battlefields of Northern Fance, and Rebecca is riding in memory of her great-grandfather Harry Hackett.

As part of her fundraising efforts, Rebecca is also holding a house sale, with all money raised going towards her sponsorship target for Blind Veterans UK's Unite and Bike for Heroes challenge.

The sale will include some of her late grandfather's possessions to generate sponsorship for the ride. Items on sale will include vintage furniture and kitchen utensils, books, children's toys, cassettes, CDs and DVDs. Larger items on sale will include a dining table and chairs, wardrobe and chest of drawers and homemade cakes and refreshments will be on offer.

Rebecca's great-grandfather was a professional soldier. He signed up to join the Army in 1912, two years before the outbreak of war. He went on to serve in the Grenadier Guards and was present at the 1914 'Christmas Truce', in which British and German troops famously ceased fire and played football in No Man's Land.

Sadly Harry was killed age 26 whilst defending a railway from German troops in the tiny village of Hazebrouck, Northern France, just seven months before the War ended. Rebecca was inspired to join Blind Veterans UK's Unite and Bike for Heroes after researching Harry's life.

She says: "Though I never got the chance to meet him, I felt a real connection to Harry. Over the last few years, I've read Harry's letters to my great-grandmother Olive about his time on the front and the things he saw - he was there at the Christmas Truce and he recognised straight away how significant that moment was going to be. He even wrote down the names of the German soldiers he met and we've traced those soldiers' stories as well."

Rebecca's bike ride will help to raise money for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

She says: "My grandfather, Harry's son, fought in the Second World War and suffered with macular degeneration later in life, so there's something particularly poignant about raising money for a charity which helps veterans with sight loss regardless of how and when they lost their sight.

"I saw that Blind Veterans UK was doing this incredible bike ride through the First World War battlefields and initially thought it would be too much of a challenge. I soon changed my mind, though, because it was something I really wanted to do - to commemorate my great-grandfather and get the opportunity to stand on the same ground Harry fought on."

The house sale will take place at 41 Passage Street, Fowey, PL23 1DE on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th April at 10-4pm. For more details, please contact Rebecca at

Places for Unite and Bike for Heroes are still available. The ride begins on August 4th, the 100th anniversary of Britain entering the War, and kicks off at Folkestone, the major embarkation point of the British Forces of WWI.

The ride then takes participants all the way to Paris in memory of those who gave their lives, whilst taking in the major battlefields and memorials and inviting riders to pay their respects. Entry to the six-day event is only £149, with a minimum sponsorship of £1,895. To sponsor Rebecca and raise money for Blind Veterans UK, please visit her Just Giving page or sign up for Unite and Bike for Heroes.