The planning for this walk started early due to the enormity of the expedition and distance to be covered. It was also thought that as the walk was to be completed over 3 months that setting up and striking camp each day would get to everyone by the end.
To this end, a Leyland DAF library truck was purchased and converted into a 10 berth fully liveried Tour Bus complete with kitchen and wet room.
The Tour Bus was a huge undertaking in the time frame that we had and the work was carried out by the VIA Team, volunteers who offered their expertise for free and of course by the veterans on ALIVE as this was made into a new project called Built by Veterans.
A sponsor came forward called Martin Mould of Total Rail Solutions based in Basingstoke who served in the Royal Engineers who donated £10,000 and without this the bus would not have been completed. Other sponsors came forward and supplied materiels for the build brought in by Scott Knowles and again without these sponsored items the bus would not be as it is now. The work was carried out to convert the tour bus in the 4 months prior to the expedition setting off which was tight and some things were still being done as we set off but set off we did.
World War 1 – 100 (WW1 – 100) was a 4,000 mile walk which would start at Tyne Cot War Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium and the Team would walk through Belgium then France before crossing to Dover on the ferry. The VIA Team would then walk around the Kent coastline and on into London to arrive at the Army v Rugby Annual Rugby Match. The VIA Team would then set off through London to the Essex coastline and then walk north following the coastline to once again finish in London. The VIA Team were joined by sponsored walkers who wanted to show their support as we headed north and the VIA Team also fundraised in the towns we passed through engaging with the public which is a fantastic way to overcome veterans being secluded in their home environment to enable them once more to become confident in social situations. This is something that is unique to ALIVE.
A tough decision was made whilst on the North Coast of Scotland and that was to end the walk early and use the rest of the time as a recce to plan and do the walk again the following year. This was due to an injury to Expedition Leader, Billy MacLeod.
Two months prior to the set off date Billy MacLeod had a fall and broke both arms with one being a fairly severe break but it was thought although unable to do much of the walking or driving could still lead the expedition in a more sedentary role.
Not long into the walk there were some complications in his arm which became infected and after a bang on his arm from a vehicle door his elbow was dislocated. Throughout all this the walk continued with the VIA Team covering great distances and veterans coming out to walk with the VIA Team.
Billy MacLeod had to return to hospital several times and was told that the metalwork in his arm was coming apart due to the infection but the surgeons said it was fine to return. The walk by this time had taken on a new focus as everyone was concerned about Billy MacLeod’s arm which was by now badly infected and the VIA medic, Grant Freeman had the unenviable job of draining the arm each day to relieve the pressure.
The walk finished in Liverpool after 2,500 miles as Billy MacLeod had to return to hospital for a 2nd and 3rd operation on his arm and for a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period.
Something was learned on this walk and that was how everyone comes together to help each other. It was also learned that the walk is only the tool to be out together and learn from each other, by changing what we did on this walk gave us another dimension to our walks and that was to use photography and film and this is something we will use more in the future with a dedicated Team as part of the Veterans In Focus Project.
As soon as the VIA Team returned from the walk, planning started for the following year on a new walk called ‘Walk 4 PTSD’. This isn’t just a copy of WW1 – 100 as a new route was designed using National Trails as much as possible.