Thousands of motorcyclists make third and last tribute to royal town (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Thousands of motorcyclists make third and last tribute to royal town
SOLDIERS who have paid the ultimate sacrifice have been honoured for the third and final time by thousands of bikers who descended on Royal Wootton Bassett.
About 8,000 bikers set off from Hullavington airfield in waves of 700 yesterday to pay their respects to the servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and to thank the townspeople for the respect shown during repatriations.
It was the last Ride of Respect through the town due to repatriations moving to RAF Brize Norton last September after almost four years at RAF Lyneham.
One of the organisers, Julia Stevenson, said: “We had about 8,000 go through in the end. We have had a wonderful day, everybody enjoyed it and it was lovely to see that so many of the people of Royal Wootton Bassett came out.
“We want to say thank you to the people for coming out and cheering us on. It is a thank you and goodbye, it has been an honour.”
Last year saw 10,000 bikers taking part and Julia said that negative comments made by some residents in the run up to the event had put some bikers off.
“A lot of bikers thought ‘well, we won’t come if we’re not wanted’ but the majority of people in Royal Wootton Bassett wanted the bikers,” she said.
Last year’s ride raised £125,000 for charity and among the charities set to benefit from the ride this year are Walking with the Wounded, The Forces Children’s Trust, SSAFA, The Army Benevolent Fund and Adam’s Hoofing Hut.
Among the crowds cheering the bikers on was Margaret Houlihan, 64, a retired shop assistant of Royal Wootton Bassett, who said she hoped the event would continue.
“We come out each time to support it. If they are good enough to come through and do it we try and come out and see it.
“We have seen so many people out here today we don’t normally see,” she said.
“I think the ride is a good thing, it shows respect. If they can go out there and give up their lives we can go out and spend an hour on the street waving to those who want to pay their respects.”
Her husband Frank said: “I would like to see it return year after year because it is good for the town. It brings the town together.
“Since the repatriations stopped the town has died. You don’t see people about the town like before. This event brings everyone together.”
Jim Hall, 79, a retired factory worker of Royal Wootton Bassett, said he would like to see the event take place again next year.
And Mick Pinnegar, 64, of Royal Wootton Bassett, described it as a ‘great event’ and praised the motorcyclists for their efforts.
Organisers thanked everyone for their support, including the police, ambulance and Wiltshire Council.