East Devon team to tackle 85-mile canoe trip in tribute to brave forces

Team of military enthusiasts set to embark on 85-mile charity canoe trip

Team of military enthusiasts set to embark on 85-mile charity canoe trip - Credit: Archant

A group of military enthusiasts will embark on a perilous, 85-mile cross channel charity canoe trip in tribute to the bravery of the armed forces.

With limited or no watercraft experience between them, seven men are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime when they replicate Operation Frankton – a commando raid in Bordeaux Harbour during World War Two.

United by a shared respect for the sacrifices made by the military, their mission was inspired by Paddy Ashdown’s A Brilliant Little Operation – which tells the story of the remarkable canoe raid.

The team is raising money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.

James Broadbent, 24, of Russell Street, Sidmouth, is the youngest member of the group. He says he has only been in a canoe about five times in his life – and has fallen in on most of those occasions.

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James said: “I have always been interested in the military and my family has a military background. I met the guys through work and went with them to the Normandy beaches for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

“We thought why not do something to give back to the people who helped us out the most. I have no experience at all in water sports. It will be a bit of an adventure in all senses.”

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The expedition is the brainchild of ex-military and amateur history enthusiast Mike Robinson, 46, of Green Close in Exmouth, but with kayaking experience spanning some days in the early 1980s, he says he has ‘literally nothing to offer the team other than a nice van’.

Mike said: “We have not really gone out in canoes before, but thought it would be a good idea nonetheless. Because none of us has any real experience, we had to get it together and get our equipment to proceed this summer.

“It is not uncommon for people to do the route, but it is normally experienced canoeists.”

Jeremy Bateman, 42, of Winters Lane, Ottery St Mary, makes up the team’s one-man support crew.

He said: “We are all ex-military or have military family members. I think the heroics and bravery are forgotten by many these days as Hollywood dilutes the real suffering and staggering heroics of our military servicemen and women. This is our way of celebrating the achievements and sacrifices made by all service personnel - past and present - and raise some money for very a worthy charity.”

Among the other team members is Exmouth-born and bred Dan Gorfin, 42, Royal Navy veteran Andy Messom, 30, Chris Wilson, 49 and former RAF aircraft engineer Neil Simkin, 50.

Training begins next month and will focus on estuary work ahead of the planned expedition date of June 2017.

To find out more, visit: http://www.franktonplus75.co.uk/.

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