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RAF brothers hike the Freedom Trail for charity

Ben and Tom Colombari Two brothers from Hornsea, East Yorkshire, conquered the Freedom Trail and raised more than £3,700 for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

Senior Aircraftman Ben Colombari and younger brother Tom, who also served in the RAF, completed the 60+ kilometre hike from France across the Pyrenees in four days. 

The treacherous route, which reaches elevations of more than 2,500 metres, was an escape route for those fleeing Nazi persecution, including downed airmen and escaped POWs. 

Ben, who was stationed at RAF Waddington, said: "In 2011, I took part in the 67th anniversary of the Long March from Stalag Luft III in Poland to Spremberg, Germany, retracing the forced march of Allied POWs from the Russian advance at the end of the war.

"But I wanted a bigger challenge and that’s when I decided on the Freedom Trail.  It’s such a privilege for me to complete another historical WWII route, raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund, and have my brother at my side." 

Tom said: "It is a gruelling hike, but a complete honour to retrace the footsteps of those fleeing the Nazis, including downed RAF airmen. The highlight for me was reaching the final refuge as it had some amazing views and we had a brilliant sense of achievement as we descended." 

Along the way, the brothers laid a plaque at the crash site of a 644 Squadron Halifax Bomber and also presented items to the Chemin de la Liberté museum in St Girons. 

Ben and Tom have fundraised for the RAF Benevolent Fund for several years, first becoming involved with the charity after an RAF colleague was injured and then assisted by the charity. 

The RAF Benevolent Fund is the RAF's leading welfare charity, providing a range of services for serving and former RAF personnel, their spouses, and dependent children.

The RAF Benevolent Fund spent over £18 million in the last year supporting more than 60,000 members of the RAF family, which includes serving and former RAF personnel and their families.

Mike Neville, Director of Fundraising at the RAF Benevolent Fund said: "The money raised by Ben and Tom is enough to pay a World War II veteran's 'top up' fees for more than two years, helping him to stay in a home of his choice, close to family and friends. 

"It is only with the help of people like Ben and Tom, and our other supporters up and down the country, that we are able to help so many members of the RAF family in their time of need."

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