FORMER Scots Guards soldier Jim Archer is embarking on a 4,000 mile walk to commemorate the First World War centenary and raise money for Veterans in Action which helps servicemen after they leave the forces.
Jim, 63, who lives in Highworth, is part of a team representing the charity walking from the Menin Gate, Ypres, in Belgium, to France who are setting off on Monday. They will then get a ferry to Dover and walk Britain’s coastline finishing at Westminster Abbey on August 3, in preparation for the war commemorations on August 4, which will be 100 years to the day that war started.
The former Wiltshire Police officer, who also served with the RAF, will be carrying a First World War active service Bible with him during the journey.
Jim said: “When I saw the Bible in the British Heart Foundation shop I thought I had to have it. I think it is a shame that it only cost 50p as it is such a low price to put on something which formed such a significant part of history. I have no idea if the soldier made it home, as it’s difficult to make out their name in the book, but I’ll cherish it and make sure the Bible comes back with me.”
Veterans in Action supports servicemen with post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injury after finishing their time with the forces.
Jim, who left the army in 1977, was diagnosed with PTSD 12 years later. His life was spiralling into alcoholism and he was contemplating suicide. After turning his life around, Jim now works as a volunteer helping soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the walk, the team of 10 will walk on rotation and pairup to take on sections, walking about 700 miles each of the charity challenge. They will also be joined by supporters of the group along the route.
Jim said: “I’m really looking forward to taking part. I’m 63, but in my head I’m still in my 20s and I’m sure I’ll be able to do my bit.
“We think the walk is a fitting way to commemorate the war and also raise awareness of Veterans in Action.”
Jim said he hopes the challenge will raise thousands of pounds for the charity which aims to collect £3m towards its work. This figure represents the number of British and Commonwealth servicemen who have been killed or wounded in action.
For more information about the charity or to sponsor their fundraising efforts visit www.v-i-a.org.uk.