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Crawley great-granddaughter's cycle in memory of First World War hero
The great-granddaughter of a First World War hero who took part in the famous Christmas truce football match is cycling 325 miles in his memory.
Rebecca Dorkins will pedal to and through the battlefields of northern France in memory of her great-granddad and former Grenadier Guard Harry Hackett.
Mr Hackett was on the frontline from the start of the Great War but was tragically killed just seven months before the end while defending a railway from German troops.
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Mrs Dorkins, 35, said: “Though I never got the chance to meet him, I felt a real connection to Harry.
“Over the last few years, I’ve read Harry’s letters to my great-grandmother, Olive, about his time on the front and the things he saw. He was there at the Christmas Truce and he recognised straight away how significant that moment was going to be. He even wrote down the names of the German soldiers he met and we’ve traced those soldiers’ stories as well.”
He signed up to the army in 1911 – three years before the outbreak of war.
After initial training he joined the Grenadier Guards and was stationed out in northern France.
He survived nearly four years of the bloody conflict.
Through research Mrs Dorkins discovered he was in the 1914 Christmas Truce in which British and German troops downed weapons to play a game of football in no-man’s-land.
He was killed three years after the Christmas later while defending a railway from German troops in the tiny village of Hazebrouck. He was 26.
The Blind Veterans UK Bike for Heroes ride will set off from Folkestone on August 4 – the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war.
Riders will make their way to Paris while taking in many of the major battlefields and memorials along the way.
Mrs Dorkins, who lives in Crawley, added: “My grandfather, Harry’s son, fought in the Second World War and suffered with macular degeneration later in life, so there’s something particularly poignant about raising money for a charity which helps veterans with sight loss, regardless of how and when they lost their sight.
“I saw that Blind Veterans UK was doing this ride through the First World War battlefields and initially thought it would be too much of a challenge.
“I soon changed my mind because it was something I really wanted to do to commemorate my great-grandfather and have the opportunity to stand on the same ground Harry fought on.”
Places are still available for the six-day ride at a cost of £149.
Participants will have to raise a minimum of £1,895 in sponsorship.
For more details and to book visit www.blindveterans.org.uk/bikeforheroes.
To pledge money to Mrs Dorkins’ ride visit www.just giving.com/Rebecca-Dorkins1.
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