Bikers’ 750- mile tribute to the RGLI
A 750-MILE motorcycle journey through France and Belgium marked the first Royal Guernsey Light Infantry memorial ride since before the pandemic.
More than 25 bikers took part, attending various memorial services and sites over a five-day period, laying crosses on more than 30 graves, and visiting four memorials where more than 200 islanders’ names are held.
The ride was part of wider work of the RGLI Charitable Trust that built the first memorials to the RGLI in Masnieres, France, and Guernsey.
The bikers set off on Thursday 26 May after a short service at the Sunken Garden.
Stopping first at the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme, where 80,000 soldiers are remembered, a cross was laid to remember islanders who served in the militia. Some 94 Guernseymen were then honoured in Cambrai, which commemorated missing soldiers of the First World War.
‘Saturday was the main commemoration day and it turned out to be far more moving than I think anyone had originally thought,’ said Lt-Colonel Colin Vaudin, who co-founded the trust and organised the ride.
The first stop that day was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, where four RGLI soldiers are buried, two of which were unnamed.
‘The unknown soldiers of the RGLI struck a particularly poignant note and caused the first of many tears on the trip,’
said Lt-Col. Vaudin.
‘The next stop was Masnieres where we received a hugely warm welcome from the mayor and local dignitaries. Masnieres is now twinned with St Peter Port and this is a relationship, and debt of gratitude to the people of Guernsey, that the French take very seriously.’
He said the day was unforgettable.
‘After such an emotional day it seemed fitting to lay a wreath during the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate [in Ypres, Belgium]. As far as the Last Post Association were aware this may have been the first time their daily vigil, which has now taken place over 32,000 times, has involved a tribute to Guernsey.’
Graves of two RGLI soldiers and a further 24 Guernseymen are held at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, where the riders had their final stop.
‘With a new war raging in Eastern Europe it seemed appropriate that we prayed for peace there while laying our cross to men who died over 100 years ago. The sheer scale of Tyne Cot was sobering for everyone and I along with many other shed tears as Padre Stringer led the service and In Flander’s Field were read out.
'As with all the other sites, it is exceptionally well-tended and immaculate, to which we all owe a debt of gratitude to the work of the CWGC for their dedication and hard work,’ said Lt-Col. Vaudin.