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Newmarket community police officer to tackle D-Day bike ride after near disaster on previous 1,040-mile challenge

A Newmarket-based community police officer will set out next month on a sponsored cycle ride in France hoping there will be no repeat of the near disaster he faced on a challenge last year.

PCSO Bill Butcher has signed up for a three-day Royal British Legion cycle tour in Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, taking in the beaches where the Allied forces landed and the area’s war cemeteries.

Bill, who is a member of the Newmarket branch of the Royal British Legion, will be one of 60 cyclists taking on the 220-mile challenge to raise funds for the Legion’s work.

PCSO Bill Butcher who is heading to France next month as part of the commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day
PCSO Bill Butcher who is heading to France next month as part of the commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day

In September last year, Bill set out during a heatwave on an unsupported solo ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society and to mark his 60th birthday.

On Day 8 of his trip he was forced to buy a new bike when the one he had set out on, carrying around 22kgs of kit including a tent, had to be part- exchanged in Worcester after becoming impossible to ride because of a major breakdown.

Back on the road, the weather changed to torrential rain and a small tear on one of the seams of his tent turned into a very large rent, soaking the contents and necessitating a detour into Birmingham to replace the tent and sleeping bag.

These two incidents faded into insignificance with a horrendous episode as Bill rode into Cumbria and through a flood which could easily have cost him his life.

“The rain was like being hit in the face by a pressure washer,” said Bill. “The rivers were raging torrents and I was riding through about six inches of water on a small back road a couple of miles before turning on to a main route.

“A white van overtook me and then the river burst its bank and the surge lifted me and my bike over the bank and into the river beside the van.

“The bike sank but I managed to grab a branch at the same time as I was hanging on to the bike by its saddle,” he said.

Bill managed to cling on and attract the attention of the van driver who dialled 999 and the mountain rescue service arrived in the nick of time and threw a line to Bill who, by that time, had to let go of his bike

“It sailed off down the river and I was taken to hospital in Lancaster, where I realised I had no clothes, no phone, no credit card and no money,” he said.

His bike was rescued by the local fire service about half-a-mile down the road, with his phone still working in its waterproof bag which also contained Bill’s credit card, which a nurse took to the local Primark and bought clothes for Bill to continue his journey two days later.

“I crossed the border at Gretna Green and then rode up through Scotland which was the best part of the trip,” said Bill, who arrived at John O’Groats at midday on October 2 at the end of just over 1,040 miles.

He raised £2,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Unlike his solo effort to Scotland, Bill’s trip with the Royal British Legion will be equipped with ride captains, medics, a lead car and an ambulance and mechanics bringing up the rear

To sponsor Bill go to royal britishlegion.enthuse.com/pf/ william-butcher/post/5076113