David Bruce, from Kingston upon Thames, was one of thousands of cyclists competing and successfully finishing RideLondon last weekend. For David though, the challenge was a poignant one, undertaken in memory of both his mother and father.
Eighty years ago this year, David’s father Andrew joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice. Born in Vancouver, his formative years were in Inverness, leaving it when he was 16 to join the RAF at Halton, where he was to be trained as an engineer.
In March 1944 Andrew joined No. 77 Squadron, which was part of Bomber Command, as it geared up for the invasion of Europe.
The courage and determinations shown by the aircrews was remarkable. Often flying at night over occupied Europe, running the gauntlet of German night fighters, anti-aircraft fire and mid-air collisions, the nerves of these young men were stretched to breaking point and many crews sadly would not return. 55,573 of the 125,000 men who flew in Bomber Command lost their lives.
David's mother Doreen (known as Dixie), a WAAF, was born in Keighley and joined in 1941, serving almost five years primarily in No. 77 Squadron where she met her future husband at RAF Elvington.
"In today's ever so modern world it's difficult to think of my mother driving a 10 ton Bedford truck with a crash gear box and no power steering, which is what she had been trained up to do," David explains.
"Her main role was to drive the bomber crews out to their aircraft; all too often the planes she saw off never returned, or if they did, the aircrew had been injured or worse."
No. 77 Squadron served with distinction and suffered terrible casualties, all of which had a profound effect on both of David’s parents.
"Sadly, neither my Mother or Father are with us anymore; their time with the RAF whilst tinged with sadness during the war years, left an everlasting impression on myself and my siblings of service above self," David, 52 years old, continues.
"With that in mind, I took the opportunity to ride for the RAF Benevolent Fund on the 80th anniversary of my father joining the RAF, in memory of my parents, and the brave men and women of the RAF and WAAF.
"I wanted to raise funds for the great work the Fund does both for my parents' generation and the following generations who served, and their families."