Miss Durham steps out with a soldier

Current Miss Durham Clara Belle helping soldier Neil Hymas  step out at the start of his 240 mile march from the DLI Museum.

Current Miss Durham Clara Belle helping soldier Neil Hymas step out at the start of his 240 mile march from the DLI Museum.

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BRAVING blustery winds and torrential rain, soldier Neil Hymas sets off on his marathon march to help build a memorial to one of the country’s most famous regiments.

The 47-year-old sergeant, is trekking 240 miles in eight days, carrying 70lb, to raise money for a statue of a Durham Light Infantry (DLI) bugler.

The Faithful Foray sponsored solo slog, which follows a route around the old boundary of County Durham, started at the DLI Museum and Art Gallery, in Durham.

Sgt Hymas, who serves with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was sent on his way by Miss Durham Clara Belle.

“The weather isn’t perfect,” he said. “It’s very wet, which can make it very hard going in parts, but hopefully it will get better. ”

The memorial was the brainchild of two former DLI soldiers who visited the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, where they discovered that their regiment was not honoured among the others there.

It is hoped the statue will be unveiled next summer.

The £75,000 appeal for that memorial has been so successful that organisers are hoping to pay for a replica for Durham City.

Dad-of-three Sgt Hymas said: “I want to raise as much money as possible. It’s going a lot better than we could have ever imagined, so hopefully we’ll have enough money to create the replica in Durham City.”

DLI Memorial Appeal co-ordinator Colonel Arthur Charlton said: “The memorial itself will consist of a life-sized bronze DLI bugler dressed in Korean War combat kit,” he said.

“This will be on top of a Portland stone plinth, suitably inscribed.”

Donations for the memorial should be made payable to the Regimental and Chattels Charity of the former DLI and sent to DLI Memorial Appeal, The Rifles Office, Elvet, Waterside, Durham, DH1 3BW.

THE DLI started in 1758, when General John Lambton of County Durham raised the 68th Regiment of Foot as part of the British Army.

Fifty years later, the 68th was chosen to become a new Light Infantry regiment, fighting in the Crimean War.

In 1881, the DLI was formed and saw action in Egypt and against the Boers in South Africa.

During the First World War, thousands of volunteers from County Durham joined the DLI.

During the Second World War, nine battalions of the DLI fought with distinction in every major theatre of the War,

After 1945, it was reduced in size until only the 1st Battalion remained.

In 1968, while the battalion was serving in Cyprus, it was announced the DLI would join with three other county light infantry regiments to form one large regiment – The Light Infantry.