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Fundraising cyclist inspired by relatives' RAF service

Sgt Chris Hayward jumped at the chance to take part in his first ever fundraiser and raise cash for the RAF's leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund. He knows first hand how crucial the charity's help and support is to the RAF family and wanted to give something back.

He will join more than 50 other riders to take on the challenge of cycling 240 miles from Paris to London on a Brompton bike.

Chris Hayward and his daughter EmmaSgt Chris Hayward and his daughter Emma

Chris, who is stationed at RAF Cosford and works as a mechanical aircraft technician, will pay tribute to the memory of two family members who served their country during the Second World War when he takes part this September.

Both Chris's great uncle Sgt Denis Kenny Leaver and his grandfather Peter Ricketts served in the RAF.

Sgt Leaver was a pilot on 254 Squadron, flying Bristol Blenheim fighters on recon missions and patrol convoys across the East Coast in the early years of the war. Sadly he was killed in action on December 6, 1940, and is remembered at Runnymede Memorial.

Chris, who lives in Telford, said: "I was supported by the Fund so I know what a great charity it is. My relatives’ experiences have really inspired me to get involved in something which commemorates the brave service of the RAF airmen during the Second World War.

"The Brompton bike ride was something a little bit quirky and that is what attracted me to it! Most of my friends think I am barking mad. The biggest challenge for me will be riding a Brompton bike with only a few gears uphill."

Chris, 32, will take part in the ride with his cousin Nick Warren. It is hoped 75 riders will each raise £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!

Chris said: "My wife and I are both serving in the RAF so we really know what it is like to be part of the RAF family. The RAF Benevolent Fund is always there to support that family, and I wanted to take part in the ride to give something back.

"Training and fundraising are tough at the moment because Sarah is currently deployed to the Middle East so I am single-handedly looking after our young daughter Emma."

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.

A recent survey commissioned by the RAF Benevolent Fund found that 40 per cent of those asked did not know what the Battle of Britain was with 10 per cent of 18-25-year-olds believing it took place in 2014!

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."

If you would like to support Chris, you can sponsor him at www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/HaywardWarrenBoB

There are just a few places left on the ride, to sign up go to, www.ride25.com/rafbf

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