A crew of South West-based Royal Marines are training hard for a gruelling rowing challenge as part of their recovery and to raise charitable funds.
The Royal Marines recovering from wounds, injury or illness – mostly sustained on operations with Taunton-based 40 Commando in Afghanistan last year – will be rowing the length of the Thames from Lechlade in Gloucestershire to Westminster and Greenwich in London from 10-14 July 2011. The challenge will cover 150 miles with 45 locks, at 30 miles a day and a total of some 55,000 strokes.
Arrival in London will be greeted by members and staff from both Houses of Parliament as they pass through Westminster, and the Challenge will finish at the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, against the backdrop of the famous Naval Hospital created for the support of those who served and their dependants in a different era. The Royal Marines will then attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace on Friday 15 July, under the auspices of the Not Forgotten Association, meeting the Patron, HRH The Princess Royal.
For the Royal Marines (and one Royal Navy able seaman), all but on of whom has never rowed before, this is a personal and team challenge, part of the recovery pathway – and very much in keeping with the RN/RM Fortitude initiative – to facilitate further and enduring rehabilitation opportunities through sport and adventure training. The challenge is also a platform for raising awareness and funds for the essential work of the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.
But the Thames Challenge is more than 10 Royal Marines rowing the length of the Thames. It is also an opportunity for the general public to stage their individual challenge. As individuals, or in groups or teams, the challenge is to travel the same distance as the Thames Challenge, by whatever means (e.g. row, walk, run, swim, ride) and raise funds for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund. When to start and how long it takes does not matter – taking part does! Already primary school children have challenged the Marines and rowed the equivalent of more than the Thames. The interactive website at: www.thameschallenge.com includes details for your challenge, including downloadable posters and your route down the Thames. Of course direct donations are also very welcome.
Colour Sergeant Geoff Power, Termoli Troop, 40 Commando Royal Marines said: “The spirit of the Thames Challenge has been embraced by all the lads recovering from illness and injury. The nature of the sport has helped us maintain physical fitness, motivation and team work. Rowing the River Thames will be arduous and require determination, a sense of humour and a lot of effort. In order to ensure the rowers can complete the Challenge safely, all rowers will be supported by physiotherapists and exercise remedial instructors throughout. We look forwards to achieving our goal, raising funds and awareness for Royal Marines Charities and arriving at Greenwich safe and sound.”
Challenge organiser, retired Royal Marine Brigadier Jeremy Robbins said: “They are a fairly extraordinary bunch of people who are well on their way to recovery, and it has been great to be involved once again with Royal Marines. Importantly this builds upon the fantastic support we have in the broader community, and we hope that people will join in and either participate in their own Challenge, sponsor or donate, or just follow these Marines, all at www.thameschallenge.com. As a retired Royal Marine I know the essential work of the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund, and the calls that are made upon it, and the hope is that this will be a novel way to complement the existing fundraising impetus.”
Thames challenge originator, rowing coach and Taunton landscape architect Steve Swan, said: “Since May 6th, I have coached the Royal Marines, all but one of whom had never rowed before. Although not surprised by their ability to learn and sense of focus, I have been truly moved and humbled by their true grit to ignore pain and get the job done. For me, the Thames Challenge will be an unforgettable experience, in the company of some exceptional men.”