Retired Army Major Martyn Bird is preparing to run 300 miles from the Thiepval First World War memorial in France to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

In his hand he will be carrying The Baton, made from the handle of a stretcher used to carry casualties in Afghanistan and modified to contain a message about the sacrifice the men and women of the British Forces daily carry out in their postings around the world.

Mr Bird, 54, a father-of-two from Ladywood, Market Lavington, said he felt honoured to have been asked by Alan Rowe MBE, the Honiton barber who created The Baton, to carry it on his multi-marathon run.

He said: “Alan is just an ordinary hairdresser but he cuts the hair of a lot of marines and he asked them if they could get him a stretcher that had been used in Afghanistan.

“He created the Baton and it has been carried all over the country by many people, and when Alan approached me and asked if I would take it with me on the run from Thiepval, I was overwhelmed.”

Mr Bird – who has raised money for Help for Heroes by running across the Gobi and Atacama deserts and accompanied disabled veteran Major Phil Packer, seriously injured in a rocket attack in Iraq, in his walk along the London Marathon course – has been in heavy training for the 300-mile run between November 2 and 8.

He said: “With less than a month to go, I am well down the line of preparing and have been lucky enough to get all of my kit and rehydration and energy supplements supplied by two local companies.

“This is by far the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. It is twice as long a run as I did in the Gobi and Atacama, but I have been training by running on Salisbury Plain and it is going well.

“The most important thing now is to get the event as much publicity as possible.”

Running along with him will be serving soldier Lt Col Geoff Minton.

They also hope to be accompanied by a relay of Army cadets who will take turns in carrying a wreath that will be laid at the National Memorial Arboretum on Remembrance Day, November 11.

For more information on the fundraising effort and how to sponsor Mr Bird, visit