West Country sailors to undertake 1,000-mile cycle challenge in honour of Victoria Cross hero Jack Cornwell...

A TEAM of eight West Country sailors are undertaking a 1,000-mile cycle challenge in honour of Victoria Cross hero Jack Cornwell, the youngest ever recipient of the Victoria Cross.

The wounded 16-year-old sailor stood to his gun aboard HMS Chester even after the other members of the gun crew were killed or wounded. Sadly he died of his wounds after the battle.

The marathon ride, in aid of The British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, will take in Keyham Barracks, now HMS Vivid, where Jack joined the Royal Navy, to Chester, the town whose name his ship carried and on which he won his Victoria Cross, then on to Grimsby where he was landed after the great  naval battle.

The next stage sees the riders head towards London where Cornwell is buried at Manor Park Cemetery. The final leg will see them ride from London back to Cornwell Division at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint.

The total mileage is 1,065 miles over 12 days with one rest day, setting off yesterday and ending on May 24.

As the youngest ever Naval recipient of the Victoria Cross, Jack Cornwell’s heroism at the Battle of Jutland on board HMS Chester is relevant in encompassing today’s modern naval values, say the organisers.

Warrant Officer John Sharp said: “The chosen charities, have significant meaning to a number of the team. Lieutenant Commander Ollie Barritt and Lieutenant Adam Wheldon suggested Diabetes UK because Lt Wheldon’s father passed away whilst in a diabetic coma and Lt Cdr Barritt has a family member with diabetes.

“Chief Petty Officer Sean Hetherington had a heart attack in 2016, so the British heart Foundation was an obvious choice.

“The Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity is a charity that supports and benefits all RN/RM personnel.”

The remaining members of the team are Sergeant James Hyde, Petty Officer James Vickers, Warrant Officer Mark Mullen and Sergeant Martin Burton.

The challenge takes in more than 1,000 miles of the UK’s most unfriendly terrain and elevation – and none of the riders have ever completed any serious endurance riding.

The challenge is the equivalent of cycling up to the peak of Mount Everest 1.75 times, with all riders spending around 80 hours in the saddle and burning on average 60,000 calories over the duration of the ride.

The majority of the training has been completed over the UKs longest winter ever in arduous conditions.

The team have spent many a long evening and weekend, as well as leave, training over the steep Devon countryside in snow, wind and hail covering up to 100 miles in a single training ride in some instances.

If you would like to donate the just giving page is: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/CVC1000

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.