An RAF serviceman based at the Headquarters of the RAF Air Cadets at RAF College Cranwell will be cycling 5,600 miles this year to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund. Wing Commander Mike Ainsworth, 55, from Barkston will be covering the distance both on the road and on a turbo trainer.
Part of Mike's challenge will include a 100-mile ride in Lincolnshire on 15 May. The Dambusters Ride has been created by the RAF Benevolent Fund to celebrate the 100th birthday of Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson DFM, the last surviving member of the Dambusters raid.
Mike then plans to travel overnight to Germany to complete a 100-mile cycle on 16 May alongside a team of riders taking part in the virtual Dambusters Ride event. On 17 May, Mike intends to cycle a further 100 miles around some of the crash sites and graves of the airmen that did not return.
Mike said: "I wanted to set myself a big challenge as I'm an experienced cyclist, so I settled on 5,600 miles. This represents 100 miles for each crew member from the eight Lancaster bombers that did not return from the Dambusters raid. I'm also turning 56 this year, which makes my target especially fitting!
"I've been in the Royal Air Force for 35 years, so the RAF Benevolent Fund is a cause very close to my heart. I grew up on RAF bases as my parents both served and one of my earliest memories is watching The Dam Busters film at RAF Halton as a young boy, so I'm honoured to be paying tribute to those who risked their lives in the Dambusters raid."
You can follow Mike's progress and sponsor him via his fundraising page: rafbf.enthuse.com/pf/mike-ainsworth.
To learn more about how you can get involved in the Dambusters Ride, visit rafbf.org/ride.
Johnny Johnson has given his support to the ride. He said: "I am grateful to have never needed the support of the RAF Benevolent Fund but nonetheless I have always known they are there for those less fortunate than I.
"Not only will this event raise vital funds to support RAF personnel, past and present, it will also pay tribute to the brave men of Bomber Command who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Dambusters raid and throughout the Second World War. Their loss must never be forgotten and it is my hope through this event, a new generation will learn about the cost of the freedom they enjoy today.
"The RAF Benevolent Fund does incredible work supporting RAF veterans and serving personnel and I would like to thank anyone who signs up for this cycle ride."
In 2020, the RAF Benevolent Fund introduced a 24-hour emotional support helpline and created an online mental wellbeing zone, as well as offering Headspace memberships to partners of serving personnel. The Fund has also offered a grant of £2,500 to each RAF station to provide an activity and wellbeing pack for RAF children and launched Airplay Connect, an online version of its youth support service.
Lisa Hunt, Regional Fundraiser at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "Mike is going the extra mile –quite literally – in his fundraising efforts this year, and we are beyond grateful for his support. By taking part in the Dambusters Ride, he will honour Johnny's life and service and other members 617 Squadron. Thanks to people like Mike, we will be able to continue supporting the whole of the RAF Family practically, emotionally and financially for years to come."