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The Long Walk Home through Kent: 100 miles, 100 veterans to mark 100 years and how you can help

By Chris Britcher

With just a few weeks to go, organisers of a 100-mile walk by 100 veterans to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, are calling for more people to get involved.

In exactly one month's time, the walkers taking part in The Long Walk Home will conclude their marathon pilgrimage from the killing fields of the Western Front in Belgium to London's Cenotaph to form part of the remembrance service in front of the Queen.

From Flanders, the veterans - of various ages - will cross to Kent where they will spend the next three days progressing towards the capital.

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The 100 veterans will be making their way to the Cenotaph in London for the remembrance service
The 100 veterans will be making their way to the Cenotaph in London for the remembrance service

And on each of the overnight stops, organisers are hoping the people of Kent will show some 'Dunkirk spirit' and help put the walkers up to ensure they are fighting fit to continue their fundraising effort.

The walk is organised by Haig Housing, which helps provide support and accommodation for ex-servicemen and women.

Explains chief executive officer Brigadier James Richardson: "We hope we can find the homes to help accommodate all the walkers.

"Pick-up will be from a designated point around 5-6pm in the evening. Those kindly offering hospitality will then take two walkers home, allowing them to have a bath or a shower, feed them, give them a bed for the night, breakfast them and bring them back for 8am in the morning. We'll be leaving some mementos as a little gift for the people who put us up and I'm sure there will be some great stories to hear."

The first overnight stop will be in Dover on the night of Wednesday, November 7.

The route will then follow the North Downs Road, taking the walkers to Canterbury on Thursday, November 8.

The Menin Gate in Ypres where the walk will begin
The Menin Gate in Ypres where the walk will begin

Day three will see those taking part head along the A2 towards Medway, with the third night stop, on Friday, in Gillingham. Day four will see them head into London.

Anyone wanting to take part will need to be within 30 minutes drive of the pick-up and drop-off points.

What's more, it's hoped crowds will take to the streets to cheer the veterans on.

"It's a way of making sure we remember those who fought so gallantly and lost their lives so we could have freedom."

Adds Brigadier Richardson: "It's going to be a challenge but we're going to start with 100 and finish with 100 - that's what we're going to do.

"I'm sure there will be sore legs, sore knees and maybe some blisters. But the preparations have been going well.

"After a day walking from Belgium, we will be starting day two very close to Dover Castle.

Brigadier James Richardson, CEO of Haig Housing planting poppies at the Tower of London (2835300)
Brigadier James Richardson, CEO of Haig Housing planting poppies at the Tower of London (2835300)

"We'll be going from Dover to Canterbury, using the North Downs Way. It's not safe on the road, so at the end of day two we'll finish in Canterbury.

"Day three we'll go from Canterbury to Medway, stopping in Gillingham. As we go through the towns along the old A2, hopefully people will come out to support us. We'll drop some leaflets off so people know what we're doing.

"We're still looking for about another 20 hosts for each overnight stop.

The Tower of London poppies which raised more than £1m for Haig Housing (4740311)
The Tower of London poppies which raised more than £1m for Haig Housing (4740311)

"We're asking the people of Kent to support this endeavour. It's a pilgrimage. It's 100 years since the end of the First World War and we're walking 100 miles with 100 veterans and really we'd like to give a chance to the people of Kent to partake in this important commemoration we're doing.

"It's a way of making sure we remember those who fought so gallantly and lost their lives so we could have freedom.

"They can walk along with us, volunteer to put up veterans, come out on to the streets and encourage us as we go by and we'll be collecting money for a very good cause and we'd love their support.

"In a month's time, we'll march down The Mall, lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, salute the Queen and take our part with all the other veterans, knowing we've walked 100 miles to do that. We're really looking forward to it."

For details on how to take part visit The Long Walk Home website.

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