A team of military veterans and serving military set off Monday morning (18 September 2023) from Hanwell on a 500-mile cycle challenge around England and Wales – the ‘Tour de Not Forgotten’ – to raise money for veterans’ charity The Not Forgotten.
The cyclists started off from the grave of Marta Cunningham CBE, an American opera singer and charity worker who set up the charity 103 years ago who was laid to rest in Hanwell Cemetery when she died in 1937.
Her grave reads “Marta Cunningham CBE, greatly beloved by thousands of ex-servicemen, disabled in the Great War, for her lifelong devotion to the task of easing their pain and suffering by administering comfort, good-cheer and entertainment, and proving to them that a grateful nation had Not Forgotten.”
In 1919, Ms Cunningham heard that there were only a ‘handful’ of wounded soldiers being treated at a nearby Ministry of Pensions hospital and asked the Matron if there might be a few patients who would like to come out for tea. But the Matron replied she had 600 patients in the wards and many more across the country.
As a result Ms Cunningham took it upon her self to use her well-connected friends to host high tea and entertainment events for the soldiers. During one of these gatherings one wounded soldier commented “We don’t want no charity, Miss, we are forgotten by everybody, and we’d better stop so.”
Following this, Ms Cunningham founded ‘The Not Forgotten Association’ which entertained 10,000 men in its first year and continues to support the same number of people today from the Army, Navy, RAF and Merchant Navy, of all ages, backgrounds and conflicts.
The team of 12 cyclists setting off from Ms Cunningham’s grave this morning included veteran amputees, those with visual impairment, and several with mental injury and trauma including PTSD. They are joined by current serving soldier and veteran, The Not Forgotten’s CEO Richard Walker OBE and cycling guides from road cycling experts Bikecation.
Over the 500 miles, around a route forming the shape of The Not Forgotten’s elephant head logo, they will make five overnight stops across 14 counties in
England and Wales.
They are aiming to finish on Saturday at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and aiming to raise thousands of pounds as well as awareness for the charity.
To support the cyclists on their fundraising cycle challenge, click here.