Liverpool to Ladysmith by bike to mark battle of Spioenkop

2011-11-11 00:00

TODAY at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and, this year being 2011, the eleventh year, Andrew Norris will be observing the traditional two-minute silence of Remembrance Day while standing among the monuments to the dead on the battlefield of Spioenkop, near Ladysmith.

This after having cycled all the way from The Kop at Anfield Park, the home of Liverpool Football Club, in the UK.

The Kop is a famous stand at Anfield Park, the name taken from the battlefield where the Boers defeated a British force during the South African War on January 24, 1900.

Many of the British troops who died, in what became known as the “acre of massacre”, were from the county of Lancashire, of which the city of Liverpool is the capital.

Remembrance Day is observed in Commonwealth countries to remember those who have died in the line of duty since WW1.

“I did this ‘Kop 2 Kop’ trip for the soldiers,” says Norris. “There are still British soldiers dying needlessly in foreign fields.”

Norris (52) is riding on behalf of the Royal Greenjackets, with whom he served for 15 years and which includes some of the regiments that fought in the Battle of Spioenkop, in order to raise funds for the Army Benevolent Fund, the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes.

This is his second trip by bicycle through Africa. “Last time, when I arrived at Spion Kop Lodge run by Ray and Lynette Heron and saw the memorial bench dedicated to those who died in the [1989] Hillsborough disaster, I knew I had to to do the Kop 2 Kop. And when I realised this year’s Remembrance Day fell on such a special date I knew that was when I had to do it.”

Norris set out from Anfield Park on June 5, cycled down to Nice in southern France and flew on to Cairo.

"From there I followed the Nile,” he says. “I always checked with the locals for information and if they said ‘don’t cycle’ I was on a bus. Like when I was warned of Somali bandits in northern Kenya.”

Disaster struck near Bulawayo when a gust of wind spread his campfire to his tent. Norris lost his sleeping bag, clothes and camera, but locals soon saw him re-equipped.

“In Zimbabwe I was also told to mind the lions … but that it was okay during the day as ‘they only attack in the morning and evening’. I really pedalled that bit!”

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