Black History Month

‘Ayr To Eternity’: RAF Airmen Walk Hundreds Of Miles For Memorial Fundraiser

It is hoped money raised will help to build a memorial to honour fallen Caribbean servicemen and women.

Two RAF airmen and their supporter have completed a three-hundred-mile walk from Scotland to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in a fundraising attempt.

It is hoped money raised will help to build a memorial to honour fallen Caribbean servicemen and women.

Flight Lieutenant Wayne Howell and Flight Sergeant Stephen ‘Walt’ Disney completed the walk they called ‘from Ayr to Eternity’, after nearly two weeks on the road. 

A small group, representing hundreds of well-wishers and supporters who have helped them on their way, was there to welcome them at the finish line.

The men have tackled all manner of terrain, sticking mainly to countryside and back roads to stay clear of areas affected by higher COVID-19 restrictions, managing an average of 26 miles per day.

Their four days in Scotland involved doing circular walks, but after crossing the border, they have worked their way down through Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, into South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and finally into Staffordshire.

Flight Lieutenant Howell said: “It’s one thing to plan something, but to actually execute it and be successful and have no injuries, no accidents, no nothing, it’s been fantastic. We’re really pleased to finally arrive at the NMA.”

Flight Sergeant Disney told Forces News: “We thought it was going to be hard and after about four days getting into it, your muscles just start to seize up, especially when you’re finishing, but overnight you go to bed and then the next morning, you feel fine and ready to go again.”

Noel Roye has supported them throughout – not only driving their motorhome, but also keeping them fed and watered, allowing them to stay in prime condition for the task at hand each day.

Inspiration for the walk came from the story of Walter Tull – the first black commissioned Army Officer who led his men over the top at Arras in the First World War, 1918. Tull also gained fame as one of the very first black footballers in Britain.

Another trailblazer for black soccer stars, former England and Watford striker Luther Blissett, was among the wellwishers for Flight Lieutenant Howell and Flight Sergeant Disney and joined them on the last part of their walk.

Mr Blissett said: “It’s absolutely the right thing to do and when I found out more about what they were doing, it seemed, yes, this is something I need to get involved with.

Flight Lieutenant Howell and Flight Sergeant Disney are joined by footballing legend Luther Blissett.

“My entire hope with this, is to help raise as much, well hopefully that we actually get the money that is required to make sure this statue is built because there is nothing that really says that so many service people from the Caribbean, or people from the Caribbean, came here and fought in the war and did their part.

“At this time, when it’s Black History Month, I think it’s ideally the right time as well, to bring it to the attention of so many people.”

The sand Flight Lieutenant Howell collected at Ayr beach was ceremonially scattered on the plot where it is hoped the new Afro-Caribbean memorial will be built.

However, it will be a race against time to raise the £500,000 they need to complete the project.

Flight Lieutenant Howell and Flight Sergeant Disney’s efforts during this, Black History Month, will have raised several thousand pounds towards the cause, and they hope it will spur others on to do the same.