Going 4,000 miles to support soldiers

This Is Wiltshire: Jim Archer at the Polygon Wood Cemetery in Belgium Jim Archer at the Polygon Wood Cemetery in Belgium

FORMER Scots Guard Jim Archer is well on his way to completing a 4,000-mile trip commemorating the centenary of the First World War and raising money for charity Veterans in Action.

Jim, 63, who lives in Highworth, is part of a team of 10 supporting the organisation that helps servicemen after they leave the forces.

They started their charity challenge at the Menin Gate, Ypres, in Belgium, on April 28, and will have travelled a route around Britain’s coastline by the time they finish at Westminster Abbey on August 3.

This will be just in time for the war commemorations taking place there on August 4, which will be 100 years to the day, that war started.

The group is now back in England and along their route they paid poignant visits to Polygon Wood Cemetery and the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, to pay their respects to servicemen killed in battle.

Jim, a former Wiltshire Police officer who also served with the RAF, said: “I found the sight of so many thousands of grave stones to be very emotional. “It is one thing to hear of the numbers killed. But to see the results of man’s inhuman acts really brings it home. I found it very sad despite being trained as a soldier.”

Since returning, the team, who are walking on rotation, have travelled across the Kent coast to London before heading north.

“I began the first leg of the relay walk from Dover to London and it all went well,” Jim said.

“On May 5, as a team, we walked through the centre of London, past Buckingham Palace, just as the changing of the guard was taking place. This brought back my memories of being a Scots Guard.”

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.

Jim’s team hope to raise thousands of pounds for Veterans in Action which aims to collect £3m. This figure represents the number of British and Commonwealth servicemen who have been killed or wounded in action.

On Saturday, the fundraising team arrived in Edinburgh, for their latest leg of the journey.

For more information about the charity or to sponsor their fundraising efforts visit www.v-i-a.org.uk.

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