The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards are currently on their last deployment to Afghanistan and due to return home later this month.
When they were last deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 they lost six men - Lieutenant Dougie Dalzell, Sgt John Amer, LCpls Darren Hicks and James Hill, and Gdsm Michael Sweeney and Christopher King. A seventh, Gdsman Jack Davies died of his wounds last year.
A further seven Coldstreamers were seriously wounded, suffering life changing injuries and have been discharged from the army.
However, once a Coldstreamer always a Coldstreamer and in 2009 they set up an Afghan Fund “to support the needs of our casualties and bereaved families”. Since then £814,628 has been raised and 150 Coldstream Guards aim to increase that by a further £300,000 by cycling from their London barracks on September 17, to Bennecourt, Coldstream’s twin town, to the north west of Paris.
The money is already rolling in, and over £300 was collected during Coldstream Civic Week towards cyclist John McIlree’s fund raising efforts.
John said: “The fund exists to provide support to Coldstreamers who have been both physically and mentally injured, and to the families of those who have been killed. The Regiment has carried out three tours in Afghanistan and sustained a large number of battle casualties, with many suffering life changing injuries. Of course, there also remains the unquantifiable number of young men who will have suffered mentally and who will need our support in the future.”
Once the Coldstreamers and their followers reach Bennecourt on Saturday, September 20, they will join in a WW1 commemoration with the citizens of the town and French authorities, followed by a big party on the banks of the Seine.
A battlefield tour has been arranged for the cyclists along the route of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions’ Retreat to the Marne in September 1914.
To date £234,301 of the money raised for the Guards has been disbursed for the purposes intended and £535,594 is now invested - there for those with physical and mental wounds which come to light in years to come when the Afghan campaign of 2006-14 has become history.