Our very own Claire McHenry is taking part in this year's 4x4 European Rally, which launched on Saturday 14th June 2014, and whilst on the Road is keeping us updated with each day's activities and photos.
The first day of the rally starts at Littlecote House Hotel near Hungerford and then we’re off for 12 days traveling through 7 countries to arrive at Hitlers Eagle’s Nest in Bavaria.
After a briefing by Keith and Tim the rally organisers and a talk from Mark Elliott from H4H and Si Harmer, an Ambassador from the charity, we receive a flyby from Sopworth and Fokker Tri-planes from the Great War Display Team,
Then it’s off for an off-road adventure across Salisbury Plain. It’s a great sight to see all those 4x4’s traveling in all directions through mud and water, and seeing billows of dust flying up around them when we are on the tracks.
We arrive at the Tin Hut, the Help for Heroes office where the charity started, for a rousing welcome from volunteers, who ply everyone with refreshments before sending them off with a cheer for the next part of the journey, which happens to be a visit to RAF Odiham. A team from Race to Recovery are there to greet us with ‘Gordon’, one of the cars they used in the Dakar Rally and it’s not long before it’s surrounded by envious admirers, looking in the engine and it’s gadgets!
On the next part of the journey, we all come across a road accident (nothing serious) and have to take a detour. Mild confusion ensues, but only briefly, as we try to work out what we need to do to get back to the right place in the road books, but we all do it eventually, although we are all going in different directions for a while! We end up at Southwick House, where they planned D-Day and get to see the original map that they used to plot the invasion. It was the perfect backdrop to a talk about how it was all planned and the characters behind this incredible undertaking.
From here we head for the ferry for our overnight crossing to France and our first day in Normandy.
Today is very thought provoking as we learn about the D-Day landings and the stories of the people that took part, all whilst traveling through pretty french villages and on farm tracks; some very muddy, which is great fun in our 4x4’s.
The morning starts with a visit to Pegasus Bridge Museum. Two years ago the rally visited the museum with a crew from Cobham Technical Services, who are also one of the sponsors for the rally and great supporters of H4H. The Cobham team offered to help the museum to restore a Centaur tank which has now been completed and is on display in the grounds of the museum.
We visit a few cemeteries during the day and two stood out for us - one was Canadian and rather appropriately is surrounded by fields full of poppies. Many of the graves include personal messages from the families of the men that were buried there. It became very personal and it’s hard to leave without shedding a tear.
The American Cemetery at Omaha is enormous, which of course reflects the amount of lives lost on Omaha beach on and around D-Day, but it’s scale is incredible and it’s very sobering. All the cemetery’s are beautifully cared for, as they should be.
We visit the invasion beaches and venture on to Omaha beach when the tide is out. It’s huge and it’s not hard to imagine why the Americans had such a difficult time.
We’re moving inland today, but not before a visit to Utah Beach. We then visited various battle sites, including St. Mere Eglise which was the first town to be liberated in France.
We are given road books every day with tulip points which we follow and we use these for the whole rally. We’re tracked by Skytag so the rally organisers know where we are at all times. They certainly don’t mind if we go off the road book at all, but the books are full of information about what happened in certain places. You come across a road that just has fields around it and find out that it was the location for the first ever tank battle for example. There is so much information in the road books that you feel as though you have your own personal guide.
As well as directions, we are given tasks to do each day, and today we received a sheet with 16 pictures of things we need to spot on route. We then write down the order we see them and get points for each one we get right. Again, you don’t have to do these daily challenges, but they’re fun to do.
At lunchtime we come across the rally marshalls that have set up a challenge for us. We drive along a track and have to look out for items that are placed along the route that shouldn’t really be there. It’s great fun, entertains the many rally children, and we find everything on the list! We write the words on a sheet and certain letters line up, to make up the words we know well at H4H ‘onwards and upwards’.
Check back in soon to see how the Rally is going, and where they are in their journey, they can also always be tracked here.
Please show your support for the amazing 4x4 Rally Team, by visiting their online giving page.