16th March 2013 – 27th March 2012. Charity Pilgrim Bandits is to take injured service men on hazardous 70th anniversary expedition to honour The Heroes of Telemark, the world-famous sabotage operation that took part in Nazi-occupied Norway during WW2 between the spring of 1942 and winter of 1944.
The original Heroes of Telemark Operation comprised allied forces and members of the Norwegian resistance. In all six treacherous missions were carried out over a two year period designed to prevent Nazi Germany developing Deuterium Oxide, known as ‘heavy water’ for Hitler’s nuclear energy programme. The WW2 missions tested human endurance to the maximum. Conditions on the Norwegian, Hardanger Plateau are amongst the toughest of the planet with temperatures dropping to -30 and prevailing 50mph winds.
Pilgrim Bandits has assembled a group of amputee servicemen and fee-paying members of the public to honour the successful WW2 mission and at the same time ‘push participants beyond endurance’. The Charity, which aims to raise funds to further its work encourages a ‘no sympathy’ approach towards injured men and women from the Army, Navy, RAF, Police, Fire and Ambulance Services. In providing a focus and extreme challenge for these highly trained individuals, Pilgrim Bandits is able to increase personal confidence and inspire those who take part in the trip and those who learn about the experiences afterwards through talks, presentations and visits. Pilgrim Bandits also works with young people and children to encourage an ‘anything is possible’ mentality and boost personal confidence by visiting schools and care homes.
Amongst the Pilgrim Bandits taking part is Lance Bdr Ben Parkinson MBE who is a double leg amputee and possibly the most injured solider to survive the Afghan conflict. Having sustained a catalogue of over 40 injures including brain damage that has affected his memory and speech. Ben was air-vacced ‘home to die.’ In the six years since his injuries, received in an armoured vehicle that was blown up by an IED in Helmand Province, Ben has confounded medical opinion by not only surviving, but walking, regaining his speech and continuing to improve week by week by week. Ben is a Patron of the Pilgrim Bandits and may be known to many for his amazing strength and determination when he carried the Olympic torch through his home town of Doncaster earlier this year.
Also taking part will be Rifleman Paul Jacobs GM who is the only injured serviceman to return from Afghanistan completely blinded, he is joined by Sapper Karl Boon who sustained the loss of his right leg below the knee.
Also accompanying the expedition will be hopefully Kerry Swain from ITV along with her camera crew, and Sgt Paul Randall from the Army Press Association who will also be making a video documentary.
A spokesman from the charity said “This is the kind of operation our boys would have relished had they been in the Forces during the War. To retrace the steps and experience, in part, what those brave allies had to do will be an honour and a huge privilege. It will also give our injured boys a real focus, the terrain is demanding, the conditions will be very tough, they are training hard and will need to be fully prepared.”
The cost of the Heroes of Telemark Expedition is likely to be in the region of £50,000. This includes all support services, the building of specialist pods for amputees with double limb-loss, accommodation and flights to Norway. These costs are met by volunteer fund raisers paying for their place. To fund much needed equipment and kit Pilgrim Bandits is approaching apparatus and clothing manufacturers in a bid to secure either loaned or completely donated kit for the amputees.
For full information about the Pilgrim Bandits Heroes of Telemark Expedition visitwww.pilgrimbandits.org