A group of charity riders are heading to Poland and back to pay tribute to their favourite war film, and the men whose lives inspired it.
Dubbed the “Great Escape 2”, the two-week ride will start on 4 June 2011 and follows the last flight of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell – played by Richard Attenborough in the classic film – before he was captured an imprisoned in the infamous Stalag Luft III.
The team are raising money for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. They have even adopted the call signs of different soldiers who took part in the 1944 break-out. Organiser Peter Spowage told MCN:
“The film is iconic and we’re meeting so many people who share that passion. We’re meeting the families of the men who took part in the Great Escape and it’s going to be a very emotional time when we actually get to the gravestones of these people who we’ve found out so much about. It’s becoming very personal for us.
“My father was in the RAF and I’ve got friends who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and I’ve reached the age where you want to put something back, not just put a few pennies into a box.”
Laguna motorcycles are providing the seven Bonnevilles needed for the journey, and - after chatting to Triumph chairman Lord Digby Jones over a cup of tea – Spowage has convinced the British firm to provide all the necessary clothing for the trip.
The seven riders will be staying at British Army bases, Colditz castle and an old SS barracks along the way, and will be filmed by independent production company Red Banana. They have already raised £4500 towards their £10000 goal.
The idea started last year when Spowage and his brother rode around the UK coastline for Help for Heroes.He said:
“Shortly afterwards, a friend of mine asked how I was going to beat that. I came up with a quick decision: emulate Steve McQueen. It’s grown from that.
“I wanted to do something on a motorcycle to raise money for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. Bikers are always seen to be the bad guys in this day and age, and yet they do a tremendous amount of work for charity.
“I heard that one of the huts in Stalag Luft III had recently been rebuilt to look the same as it did in 1944 prior to the Great Escape.
"Some friends of mine started to say how great it was and that they’d join me and I realised that if it was to go ahead, I’d have to do it big. A little like the escape itself.”