Veteran completes cycling charity challenge as he celebrates his century

Ben Mitchell, PA
·3-min read

A Second World War veteran is celebrating his 100th birthday by completing a lockdown cycling challenge to raise money for blind service personnel.

Raymond Brooks has been riding his exercise bike for 15 minutes a day since the start of the first lockdown in March last year, at his home in Winford on the Isle of Wight.

The widower placed his bike by his window so he could update passers-by on his progress and encourage them to donate to his fundraising campaigns for Blind Veterans UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Raymond Brooks charity ride
The Second World War veteran placed his exercise bike by the window so he could wave to wellwishers (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Brooks, who turns 100 on Friday March 26, joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up 10 days before the Second World War, during which he served in Egypt and the Middle East before landing in Sicily on D-Day as part of Operation Husky.

Explaining his support for Blind Veterans UK, which he has been fundraising for since 1971, Mr Brooks, who served as a gunner, told PA: “I am a veteran myself, I went right through the war from beginning to end and to go blind for serving your country must be the worst thing that could happen.”

Describing his support for Macmillan Cancer Support, he said: “When my wife died 18 years ago, for the last few days she was lucky to be at home and the Macmillan nurses were absolutely brilliant, they were so kind and nice.

Raymond Brooks, aged 17, was a gunner during the Second World War (Family handout/PA)
Raymond Brooks, aged 17, was a gunner during the Second World War (Family handout/PA)

“I thought under the present circumstances with the Covid business they need all the help they can get as they will be needed more than ever.”

Mr Brooks, who has twin daughters, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, said: “I used to do a lot of cycling, but in recent years I haven’t and when lockdown started my daughters said ‘You have an exercise bike, why don’t you use it?’ and one of my grandsons said ‘You are doing all this effort so someone should benefit’ so I decided to raise money for these charities.”

When asked how he has remained fit and healthy to reach 100, he said: “I haven’t got a clue, it just happened, I am very lucky I have.”

Raymond Brooks charity ride
Raymond Brooks is raising money for two charities (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Brooks has raised £1,200 for Blind Veterans UK at justgiving.com/fundraising/raymond-brooks1 and more than £1,400 for Macmillan Cancer Support at justgiving.com/fundraising/raymond-brooks2.

Nicky Shaw, director of operations at Blind Veterans UK, said Mr Brooks’ efforts will support its services, which have adapted during the pandemic in how to assist its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are aged over 70 and are at increased risk from Covid-19.

She said: “Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time.

“So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.

“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”