MANY people will mark this year’s centenary of the start of the First World War by standing in silence at a war memorial.
But for RAF Brize Norton’s Senior Aircraftman Technician Oliver Flower the solemn anniversary will be marked by pedalling furiously around Europe.
The 27-year-old will be taking part in the Big Battlefield Bike Ride from Brussels to Paris, which is being organised by forces charity Help for Heroes.
He said: “It will be myself and 250 fellow riders who are both wounded and able-bodied service personnel.
“We will follow the Western Front battlelines and going to be stopping off daily at various First World War landmarks such as the Somme. I am a serviceman and with the job I do I don’t go outside the wire but I have got lots of respect for my fellow servicemen who put their lives on the line daily doing what they do.”
The cycling event will kick off on June 1 in Brussels and cover 335 miles through Mons, Arras, Amiens and Compiegne before arriving in Paris on June 8.
It is the seventh year that the Big Battlefield Bike Ride has taken place but to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War the route has been changed so that it follows the Western Front.
SAC Tech Flower, who has been based at Brize for two years and works on the TriStars, said: “I am looking forward to seeing the battlefields myself because I have never done that before but it will be a really emotional set of days.
“I am a keen cyclist and I did the Hero Ride last year which was 100 miles a day but I am now starting to kick my training up a notch.”
Help for Heroes is organising other charity Hero Rides from Cardiff, Manchester and Edinburgh that will converge on London on June 8, meeting up with cyclists who have ridden in France.
The First World War broke out on July 28, 1914 when Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It ended four years later by which time more than nine million soldiers died.
Registration for the Big Battlefield Bike Ride is still open.
Visit helpforheroes.org.uk and to donate to SAC Tech Flower’s cause visit bmycharity.com/OliverFlower
The Oxford Mail is preparing its coverage for the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. If you have any stories or pictures you would like to share or are working on a local history project to commemorate the sacrifices made 100 years ago, email firstname.lastname@example.org