On Saturday 1 October, thousands of motorcyclists from across the UK and beyond made their annual ‘Ride to the Wall’ pilgrimage to the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the Nation’s year-round place to Remember.
Now in its 15th year, the Ride to the Wall community paid tribute to those who ‘can no longer ride by our side’ with a special Service of Remembrance in memory of the fallen UK Armed Service personnel whose names are engraved on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial.
Martin Dickinson, Founder of Ride to the Wall, said: “Each year we gather at Ride to the Wall to remember those who can no longer ride by our side, ensuring that the names on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial are never forgotten. Through the dedication and support of the extended Waller family, we want to help make sure that the National Memorial Arboretum can continue to share the stories of those who have served and sacrificed for our country.”
Most of the riders arrived in convoy after departing from one of eleven designated start locations around the country, although some travelled from as far afield as Spain. As the motorcycles approached the Arboretum they were greeted by David ‘Blu’ Sheaf, a veteran of Northern Ireland, who every year braves the weather, standing to attention for five hours, saluting every rider as they pass.
The 2022 Ride to the Wall commemorations featured performances from piper Leif Findlay, and vocalists Abigail Carter-Simpson, Gari Glaysher and Oliver Moriarty. Families of those commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial were able to spend some time on the Memorial privately before the service.
The Service of Remembrance itself, which was broadcast online for those who couldn’t attend the event, commenced with a flypast of WWII-era Spitfire fighter aircraft and a Lancaster bomber and concluded with a minute’s silence, laying of wreaths and the National Anthem performed by the Band of the Irish Guards. As thousands of ‘Wallers’ ascended the steps of the Armed Forces Memorial following the service, the powerful music and lyrics of “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits could be heard across the site – the song is the unofficial anthem of Ride to the Wall.
Since the first Ride to the Wall in 2008, ‘Wallers’ have raised over £1.35m to support the National Memorial Arboretum, which features over 400 memorials to those who have served and sacrificed for the Nation, set within 150-acres of gardens, grounds and woodlands.
Philippa Rawlinson, Director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “It was such an honour to once again be able to ride pillion to the Arboretum, arriving alongside all the other Wallers making their annual pilgrimage to the Armed Forces Memorial for this incredibly special Service of Remembrance. The Arboretum is usually a quiet and tranquil place to reflect, so the incredible sight and sound of thousands of motorcyclists coming together to pay their deep and heartfelt respects is such a unique and poignant way to remember the fallen.”
“We are hugely grateful to the incredible generosity of the Wallers who have raised more than £1.335m through Ride to the Wall activities over the past 15 years, including £135,000 from last year’s event,” continues Philippa. “Their support helps us to care for the Nation’s year-round place to remember, and to ensure that the baton of Remembrance can be passed on to future generations.”