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Battle of Britain heroes inspire pilot's training rides

Flt Lt Andrew McMaster, from Bicester, is one of more than 50 cyclists who have signed up to take part in the Battle of Britain Paris to London Brompton Bike Ride this September.

Following a recent survey commissioned by the RAF Benevolent Fund which revealed 40 per cent of people do not know what the Battle of Britain was, McMaster is putting pen to paper and commemorating a number of those young men who fought in the battle in a series of poignant blogs.

Andrew McMaster

Andrew, a helicopter pilot based at RAF Benson who has completed multiple tours of Afghanistan, Kenya and Northern Ireland, said: "I just wanted to add some motivation for myself, finding a particular person or event that puts the villages and fields I was riding through into context.

"It gives me something to focus on when the riding gets tough.

"I have found more of a connection than I thought I would. As soon as I started to pull on the thread of the characters I discovered many fascinating similarities and links with my own career, like they trained in the same place or they were attached to the same squadron or base.

"As I have learnt more about the characters and personal lives of the Battle of Britain pilots I've found I, and my fellow Squadron mates, are more and more relatable to them. There is a unique humour, confidence and personality type that it takes to be a military aviator. That is as true today as it was in 1940."

There were nearly 3,000 aircrew who fought in the Battle of Britain from more than 70 Squadrons. The cost of the battle was high – 544 lost their lives and a further 814 died before the end of the War.

But it seems not everyone in Britain is aware of the battle and the ultimate price paid by so many of 'The Few' – the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots who took on the Luftwaffe in the skies above Britain in 1940.

In the South East, 40% of those asked in a recent survey commissioned by the Fund, said they did not know what the Battle of Britain was, while 7% of Londoners thought it applied to the General Election held last year.

Around half (54 per cent) of those living in the South East did not know who The Few were, and 5 per cent thought they were a group of spies! The survey, carried out by Opinion Matters, questioned 1,000 people of all ages on their knowledge of the Battle of Britain.

The cyclists will tackle the 240-mile course over four days to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, as well as commemorating one of the most important battles in British history.

It is hoped 75 riders will take part in the ride, each raising £1,000 to support the work of the Fund in providing emotional, practical and financial support to the entire RAF family. Riders need not have a connection to the RAF or a Brompton bike to take part in the challenge – just an interest in having fun!

Mike Neville, RAF Benevolent Fund director of fundraising, said: "It is rather fitting that an icon of British design such as the Brompton bike should be involved in our commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It would be incredible if the riders raised £75,000 to help fund the work which the Fund does to help the RAF community."

Andrew added: "With regards to the Ride 75 challenge I had been looking for a way to memorialise this year and a chance to ride across the same landscape that the Battle was fought over, sharing that with 74 colleagues, while also supporting the RAFBF, was an unmissable opportunity."

If you would like to support Andrew, you can sponsor him at https://www.justgiving.com/Andrew-McMaster/ and follow his Battle of Britain blogs at: @maddadskillz

There are still spaces left for the ride, if you would like to sign up go to www.ride25.com/rafbf

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