Thousands of motorcyclists pay tribute to the fallen during Ride to the Wall 2023
Thousands of motorcyclists from across the country and overseas made their annual ‘Ride to the Wall’ pilgrimage to National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, on Saturday 7 October for a special Service of Remembrance in memory of those commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial.
Now in its 16th year, the Ride to the Wall community paid tribute to those who ‘can no longer ride by our side’ with a special Service of Remembrance in memory of the fallen UK Armed Service personnel whose names are engraved on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial.
Martin Dickinson, Founder of Ride to the Wall, said: “Each year we gather at Ride to the Wall to reflect and remember those who can no longer ride by our side, ensuring that the names on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial are never forgotten. We want to help make sure that the National Memorial Arboretum can continue to share the stories of those who have served and sacrificed for our country.”
“Since its inception 16 years ago, Ride to the Wall has raised funds toward the ongoing upkeep of the National Memorial Arboretum, ensuring that the site can continue to be free to access and remain a fitting place of Remembrance for all who have served our country.”
After travelling from across the UK and abroad, most of the riders arrived in convoy after departing from one of eleven designated start locations around the country. As the motorcycles approached the Arboretum they were greeted by David ‘Blu’ Sheaf, a veteran of Northern Ireland, who every year braves the weather, standing to attention for five hours, saluting every rider as they pass.
The 2023 Ride to the Wall commemorations featured performances from piper Leif Findlay, and vocalists Abigail Carter-Simpson, Gari Glaysher and Oliver Moriarty. Families of those commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial were able to spend some time on the Memorial privately before the service.
The Service of Remembrance commenced with a flypast of WWII-era Spitfire fighter aircraft and concluded with a minute’s silence, laying of wreaths and the National Anthem performed by the British Army Band Colchester. As thousands of ‘Wallers’ ascended the steps of the Armed Forces Memorial following the service, the powerful music and lyrics of “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits could be heard across the site – the song is the unofficial anthem of Ride to the Wall.
Since the first Ride to the Wall in 2008, participants have raised over £1.5m to support the National Memorial Arboretum, which features over 400 memorials to those who have served and sacrificed for the Nation, set within 150-acres of gardens, grounds and woodlands.
Philippa Rawlinson, Director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “This is my fifth Ride to the Wall and third year riding pillion as part of the Drayton Manor ride, yet this unique and poignant event never ceases to amaze me. The rumble of engines can be heard across our 150-acre site from early in the morning and thousands of motorcycles processing into the Arboretum remains an incredible sight. Each of the riders has come here to pay their respects to fallen comrades and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of the Nation, remembering those who can no longer ride by our side.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing generosity of everyone who participates in Ride to the Wall who have collectively raised over £1.5 million for the Arboretum to date, including a £150,000 donation presented at Armed Forces Weekend 2023,” continues Philippa. “Their support is essential to ensuring that we can continue to pass the baton of Remembrance to future generations and remain a place for people to celebrate lives lived and commemorate lives lost in service, freely open to all.”