Father and son, Mark and Cadet Finley Downes took on a walk like no other to commemorate the evacuation of Dunkirk and raise money for a forces charity.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the retreat the British Expeditionary Force took in May 1940 and raise money for SSAFA, The Armed Forces Charity, the duo walked approximately 30 miles over two days in May 2020. At the time of writing, the pair have raised £625 of their £600 target.
Originally, they had planned to go to France to be part of the re-creation of the retreat alongside 50 other World War Two re-enactors. This would have seen them march 50 miles from Belgium to Dunkirk over four days. Due to the Coronavirus, the walk had to be cancelled, so Mark and Finley came up with an idea a lot closer to home and in keeping with lockdown restrictions.
It was no easy feat, wearing full replica military Second World War uniforms and carrying kit, on some of the hottest days in May 2020. Mark said:
“It was quite hard going on the ankles, and boots from very early on. We got an hour into it and Fin had already started to pick a blister up.”
The pair are no strangers to the uncomfortable uniforms, with both of them being eager WW1 and WW2 military re-enactors. Finley is also a cadet with the Cheshire Army Cadet Force, Somme Company in Abbots Park.
Their challenge started in Bickerton, Cheshire, following the Sandstone Trail and the Shropshire Union Canal. On day two, they followed the Wirral Way towards the coast.
Overnight, the pair slept on the floor in a summerhouse in their back garden, alongside some very noisy rats. This is in keeping with the authenticity of what the soldiers would have likely experienced on top of the threat of guns and bombs.
“We just tried to keep it as authentic as possible, no music just walking along chatting between ourselves."
Along the way, they were met with messages of support both online and in-person from passers-by. From a safe distance, they explained what they were doing to those that asked why they were in replica military uniforms.
“This has been a great learning experience and has only deepened our respect for the veterans of Dunkirk.”
The walk was "more challenging than we expected", and as they walked they kept people up to date with their progress with videos on their Facebook page, Fin's Dunkirk Hike.
Here is the moment they made it to the beach and finished their gruelling walk:
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