Special Forces veteran’s Pyrenees odyssey will raise funds for Poppyscotland

18th August 2017 Laura Hayward

A former Special Forces soldier will head to the French Pyrenees next month to undertake a sponsored cycle to raise funds for Armed Forces charity Poppyscotland. Duncan Forbes, who was injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion while serving overseas in 2010, will take part in a week-long, 450-mile journey climbing 36,000 feet of hill and mountain, cycling from the Atlantic Coast to the Mediterranean through the challenging terrain of the Pyrenees.

On that fateful night, Duncan, 43, was commanding a vehicle and leading a large vehicle convoy of elite Special Forces soldiers when the IED exploded under the wheels. Recounting the incident, Duncan, who is bound by a confidentiality contract which prevents him from revealing where he was deployed, tells of the moment when he woke up on the ground a great distance from his destroyed vehicle: “By the time I realised where I was my fellow soldiers had already selflessly run through what was potentially further mined territory to come to my assistance.

“Although the ligaments in my knee were severely damaged and I had sustained several broken bones and a shrapnel wound, the physical injuries that myself and the other two lads on the vehicle sustained healed over the subsequent months. We were all extremely lucky that night. Many others were not so lucky; many lost limbs and a great number of families lost husbands, fathers and brothers.”

Duncan, who lives in East Lothian, is now working full-time as well as studying towards a Master’s degree at St Andrews University. However, he emphasises the difficulties many veterans experience when attempting to secure employment in the civilian job market: “Veterans have achieved great feats under the most difficult circumstances. Many of the most impressive people who I served alongside came from very humble backgrounds and often with virtually no education qualifications.

“They flourished in that environment by employing a proactive intelligent ‘make it happen’ attitude, particularly when they had a distinct goal in mind. Perhaps you would call it entrepreneurial if this was taking place in a commercial environment. There is an immense pool of talent out there and I just hope employers are aware of this and are prepared to consider the benefits of employing veterans.”

Gordon Michie, the Head of Fundraising at Poppyscotland, said: “As an organisation, we are acutely aware that many veterans do not settle as well when returning to civilian life and this is where some of the Poppyscotland services come to the fore.

“We are there to support those in transition from military to civilian life. However, that support can only be given if we can continue to raise vital funds to support our ongoing work. The challenge that Duncan is undertaking is gruelling in many ways. It’s not just the physical element, but also the challenge that he has set himself to raise as much money for our vital work. As a veteran myself, I commend him for his incredible efforts on our behalf.”

Duncan, who grew up in Kirkintilloch and Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, is offering a limited edition bottle of Bowmore Single Malt Whisky that will be specially engraved with the insignia of the Special Boat Service (SBS). The winner of this rare item will be decided by drawing names out of a hat for all donations of £5 and above.

Duncan won’t be undertaking this seven-day challenge on his own. He will do so accompanied by a group of veterans, some of whom have injuries so severe that they will tackle this already difficult task on hand bikes.

To donate to Duncan’s fundraiser and help Poppyscotland assist ex-Service personnel and their families who have fallen on hard times you, please do so on the Just Giving page by clicking here or you can text SFDF99 and the amount you wish to donate to 70070.

The trip has been organised by 65 Degrees North, an organisation that funds trips for veterans in rehabilitation. Its Patron, Jonathan Thomson, said: “65 Degrees North believes in ‘Rehabilitation through Adventure’, and we are proud to be offering 15 wounded and damaged veterans, drawn from across the Armed Services, the opportunity to tackle the extreme challenge of the cycle route over the high Pyrenees, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. It will be a true journey of discovery, which will have lasting effects, and we wish them all the very best of luck.”