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WW2 veteran from Elephant and Castle rides 104 miles on a static bike to raise funds for his care home

A 96-year-old Normandy veteran is recreating his journey across the channel on a static bike to raise funds for his care home.

Len Gibbon in WW2

Len Gibbon, originally from Southwark, has set up a fundraising page for Care for Veterans which provides accommodation for disabled veterans and their families at its home in Sussex.

He aims to complete the 104 mile challenge by June 6 –  the 76th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Len grew up just off the Elephant. His father served in the army too, and then worked as a horse and cart driver. At just fourteen he lost his mum to heart failure when she was 37.

During World War Two, at the age of 20, he enrolled in the Royal Army Service Corps as a despatch rider.

In June 1944 he was posted to France just four days after getting married. He was based in Normandy until the end of the invasion, then went on to serve in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, before seeing out the end of the conflict in Germany.

Len remembers finding out the war had ended while riding on his motorcycle toward Hamburg: “The woodland which ran alongside the motorway was alight where they’d destroyed the German ammunition stores.

“Suddenly a Spitfire was flying above me, came right down as if it was going to and on the road, then flew back up and did a loop!

“The pilot shouted down to me with thumbs up, shouting ‘victory!’

“Then I knew it was over. I stood up on my bike, arms in the air, cheering.”

After returning to England Len moved to Tooting, starting as a building fitter before working his way up to managing a building plant.

In December 2019 he moved into Care for Veterans after having a series of falls at home and realising he needed extra help.

His walking is unbalanced and he has also had problems from an old ankle injury.

At the home he has specialist physiotherapy and keeps busy with plenty of activities – including gardening and dancing.

Len was inspired to raise funds not only with the D-Day anniversary next month and this week’s 75th VE Day anniversary, but also because many of the charity’s fundraising activities have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

He said: “Although I’m 96, I still like to be doing something. I like to have a dance at the concerts they have sometimes.  I have physio as well, which I really enjoy.

“I’m doing this challenge to help raise money for Care for Veterans because it’s a wonderful place.

“It’s going really well so far, hopefully I’ll finish on time!”

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