Forces Charities

Grieving soldier tabs non-stop for two days for military charities – in memory of his mother

Listen: Cpl James Kirby speaks to Hal Stewart about his epic fundraising challenge in memory of his mother.

A Cyprus-based soldier has completed a grueling non-stop 154-mile tab in just under 48 hours to raise money for three vital military charities and in memory of his mother who died of Covid-19 in 2021. 

For Corporal James Kirby, of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, this was an emotional quest to help him manage his grief following the death of his mother and turn that negative energy into something positive. 

Speaking with Hal Stewart, a broadcaster for BFBS the Forces Station, he said: "I watched her die for 48 hours... it haunts me, so I thought rather than doing something negative, I'll do something positive and put it into, sort of, helping people out in life and helping myself mentally as well." 

The soldier is now three-quarters of the way to reaching his fundraising target of £6,000 shared equally between SSAFA, BLESMA and Healthier Heroes CIC. 

Dressed in full CEMO – Complete Equipment Marching Order – and carrying a 59lb load (a pound for every year his mother was alive) the soldier repeatedly tabbed a route back and forth between Episkopi Camp and Happy Valley for 48 hours non-stop. 

Proving that the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment's motto of Difficulties Be Damned is very suited to this determined soldier. 

But he didn't take on the challenge alone – Cpl Kirby was joined by other units based in Cyprus. 

He said: "I'm quite a tough bloke, to be honest, but seeing the amount of people was quite, quite emotional. 

"I mean I had everybody from different groups joining me every two hours. 

"My Sergeant Major came and volunteered – he did a full stint of over 13-and-a-half hours with me as well as sorting my feet out. 

"You name anybody within the community, they was all there and I just wanna shout out a thanks to that." 

Corporal Kirby receives medical attention after his completes his fundraising challenge (Picture: Corporal James Kirby).
Corporal Kirby receives medical attention after he completes his fundraising challenge (Picture: Corporal James Kirby).

The fundraising event was due to take 48 hours because that is how long he had to say goodbye to his mother before she died. 

However, supported by his Armed Forces family, he managed to tab the 154 miles in 46 hours and 30 minutes. 

He said: "That last leg to me, that was like my mum's last breath and I watched her fight for that. 

"It was tough, obviously after losing my dad to... suicide and then losing my mum and not having any sort of family around me, the Armed Forces community and outsiders, you know, within it, brought a sense of family to me and it was like I was doing it with my family." 

Soldiers from the Cyprus based units who supported Corporal James Kirby during his tab CREDIT Corporal James Kirby
Soldiers from the Cyprus-based units who supported Corporal James Kirby during his fundraising tab (Picture: Corporal James Kirby).

This isn't the first time the soldier has taken on the epic tabbing challenge. 

His first fundraising effort in 2021 saw Cpl Kirby tab back and forth between Preston and Catterick in the UK, the same route he took to visit his mother in the hospital before she died. 

Speaking at the time, he described the pain he felt at the halfway point, saying: "My feet are killing me, proper killing me. 

"My eyeballs feel like they've got salt and vinegar in them. 

"But the main thing is, mentally, I'm buzzing." 

All the more impressive then that Cpl Kirby took up the challenge again, this time in Cyprus. 

Donations can be made to Cpl Kirby's fundraiser here.

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