Former Navy rugby players cycle one million metres in memory of Navy colleague

Two former Navy rugby players joined forces to ride one million metres on indoor training Wattbikes in just 50 hours over the Remembrance weekend, in an effort to raise money for charity in memory of a friend who passed away from cancer.

Lieutenant Commander Rob Kerry-Packer (KP) and Lieutenant Commander Michael 'Doc' Cox, played for the Navy rugby under 21s in 1987 alongside their friend, CPO Graham 'Sid' Street who, after raising m ore than £250k for various cancer charities, recently lost his own battle with cancer.

In his memory, the two former Command Field Gunners came together at Portsmouth Rugby Club and successfully cycled a total of 1,000,501 metres ahead of schedule in aid of Charlie's Beach Hut, a cause that was close to Sid's heart.

They each pedalled a Wattbike, an exercise bike designed to mimic road cycling while recording power output in watts.

Lt Cdr Packer, who articulated the idea of taking on this challenge, said the idea of taking on the challenge "seemed fitting".  

He said: "During his convalescence, we were constantly raising money for cancer charities, one of which was Charlie's Beach Hut.

"It seemed fitting that with the permission from his family, that we do something on Remembrance weekend to raise money for the charity.

"With my background in the Royal Navy as a physical trainer, we've also had the one hundred mile running clubs and the five hundred mile running clubs on board, I thought let's do something along those lines."

This is the first time that the two have come together on the same site to do something together since their Navy rugby days.

Lt Cdr Cox, who is set to retire after 38 years in the service, said that the decision to do the challenge in Sid's memory was a "no-brainer".

He said: "Me and Sid go back from when we were baby sailors together and we just remained friends ever since.

"Me and KP played rugby for the under 21s in 1987 and this is the first time since then that we have been in the same site together doing something.

"There has always been a field gun bondship as well as the rugby for the Navy, so it was a no-brainer."

Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North and a naval reservist, visited Portsmouth Rugby Club to offer her support where she also decided to hop on the bikes herself.

She said: "This is the Pompey spirit in action, this is in memory of one of their colleagues and friends and they are raising money for a good cause, and they are doing it in a very positive way and a slightly crazy way as well.

"I just wanted to come down and show them my support and give them a bit of encouragement. Hopefully, we'll get the whole of Portsmouth and the wider area behind them, donating money and just raising money for this great cause."

Upon completing the challenge, both Lt Cdr Packer and Lt Cdr Cox conducted a Remembrance ceremony with Portsmouth Rugby Club junior section and their families. Their current local giving page has currently raised more than £2,000.