Soldier Neil praises Sunderland’s ‘absolutely terrific’ welcome during gruellin 240-mile march

Sunderland Mayor Coun Norma Wright with soldier Neil Hymas.

Sunderland Mayor Coun Norma Wright with soldier Neil Hymas.

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FOOT-sore soldier Neil Hymas was given a hero’s welcome when he arrived on Wearside on his marathon march.

The 47-year-old embarked on the trek which passed through Sunderland to help build a memorial to one of the country’s most famous regiments.

The sergeant, who covered 240 miles in seven days, carrying 70lb, raised vital funds for the drive to create a statue of a Durham Light Infantry (DLI) bugler.

“I finished on time,” said Neil. “The response I had from the public was absolutely terrific and I’d like to thank everyone who made a donation.

“Sunderland was fantastic. When I was walking along Seaburn front, I had so many people coming up to me and saying hello, asking me about the march and wishing me luck.

“I was actually late meeting the mayor because of it, although she understood.”

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

Sgt Hymas, who serves with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said: “The hardest part was the weather.

“It did pick up after the first few days, but it was bad at the start.

“I’ve also got a few aches and pains. My feet are a bit sore, blisters and bruises, but I’ll survive.

“It was definitely worth it.”

The memorial was the brainchild of two former DLI soldiers who visited the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, where they discovered 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: “There was about £400 in the collection buckets and the sponsorship money is still coming in. I’m expecting to get between £400 and £600. About £1,000 in total.”

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.

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.

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