Cyclists connect with history during a commemorative ride

Battlefield Bike Rider Warrant Officer Dan Bodden. Photo supplied

Battlefield Bike Rider. Photo supplied

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

From Hill 70 to Vimy Ridge to Beaumont-Hamel, the Drury Memorial, Canal Du Nord and other historic sites in between, each of the Battlefield Bike Ride participants had connections that made this year’s ride meaningful.

For Warrant Officer (WO) Dan Bodden, the team’s stop in Vimy Ridge was the highlight of his trip and a true ‘bucket list moment’. 

“Battlefield Bike Ride was a humbling, amazing and cathartic experience,” he said. “It made me feel even more proud to be Canadian. When it comes to the debate of what patriotism means, Vimy embodies this.”

WO Dan Bodden is the Royal Canadian Navy’s Diving Safety Director. He has served in Canada’s military for 32 years and is a founding member of Wounded Warrior Run B.C. This year was his first Battlefield Bike Ride experience.

WO Bodden had visited France previously but always regretted never getting a chance to visit Vimy. He said Vimy was important for the overall historical significance of the ride. He believes the battle for Vimy was a true watershed moment in Canada’s history.

“It was just a very emotional day for me because I could feel the presence of those young Canadian soldiers and how they managed to perfect a coordinated effort between infantry and artillery to prevail,” he said. 

Chief Warrant Officer (Retired) Mark Dankwerth also has a personal connection to the sites he visited.

“As I rode near the site on my bike, I was thinking of my Great-Uncle Wellington Gray and what he and all the other soldiers went through during the last 100 days of the war,” he said.

His grandfather Auty Gray and his brother Wellington both served in the 4th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment). Wellington Gray was killed in action in March 1917 but Dankwerth’s grandfather, although suffering an injury to his arm and deep mental scars, survived the war.

Wellington Gray is buried at Roclincourt Military Cemetery. CWO (Ret’d) Dankwerth visited the site and laid a wreath on his gravestone during a bus tour organized by Personnel Support Programs (PSP) many years ago. Although there was no official tour stop at Roclincourt for this year’s ride, the group did traverse the region during the tour. The moment gave CWO (Ret’d) Dankwerth another chance for pause and reflection of the costs of war.

CWO (Ret’d) Dankwerth is a former Base Administration Unit Chief at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, and retired from Canada’s military after a 35-year career in July 2019. He is also is an avid cyclist: he has participated in two previous Battlefield Bike Rides in Europe in 2017 and 2019; two Highway of Heroes Rides in B.C. (2018) and Ontario (2019); and two virtual rides for mental health during the pandemic. He was also a member of the Wounded Warrior Run B.C. fundraising team in 2018.

He says the opportunity to ride again with the tour for a third time was too alluring to pass up.

“It was exhilarating to be around other like-minded riders and athletes who honour the fallen of Canada at these commemorative sites,” he said. “The experience is something that is hard to describe unless you experience it yourself.”

Battlefield Bike Rider

Battlefield Bike Rider. Photo supplied

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