Ex-RAF policeman in D-Day bike challenge across France
PUBLISHED: 11:51 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:24 28 August 2019
A former RAF policeman is to embark on a three-day cycle challenge across France to raise money for servicemen who have fallen on hard times.
Woodbridge-based Ian Balchin is riding past the significant military points of the Normandy coastline, inluding the site of the 1944 beach landings and the first places to be liberated.
Although the 63-year-old has accomplished many cycling challenges in the past, such as John O'Groats to Land's End, he believes this will be his toughest yet.
But the gruelling 240-mile ride will all be worth it as he raises money for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).
"I've always wanted to visit the D-Day beaches and cemetries to pay my respects to everyone who didn't come back," said Mr Balchin.
"So when the opportunity came up, I thought I'd raise some money for SSAFA.
"I've seen it with my own eyes, people fall on hard times and SSAFA support the whole family. And that is the main thing for me."
With a £1,600 deposit required to secure a place on the epic cycling adventure, Mr Balchin began raising funds in January this year by setting up a bric-a-brac stall next to his post office.
He was stunned when support from the public came flooding in.
"I have been completely astounded at the generousity of people in the Woodbridge area," he said. "I can't thank them enough."
There will be 100 people travelling the D-day cycle route, which begins on September 4.
So far Mr Balchin has raised just under £2,500.
Mr Balchin will also be tending to a grave on behalf of a staff member whose great uncle was killed in the battle and is buried in one of the cemetries on the cycle route.
Adding a personal touch to the cause, he said: "I told her I would take a photograph of where he has been laid to rest to try and reassure the family that he is at peace now."
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For updates during the challenge, click here.