Watch as hundreds of armed forces veterans create huge Rolling Thunder motorbike procession to raise profile of mental health welfare

More than 300 armed forces veterans rode motorbikes along Seaham seafront to raise awareness of the mental health problems experienced by former service personnel while also raising vital funds to provide support.

By Neil Fatkin
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 5:14 pm

It was a spectacular sight as the Rolling Thunder veterans’ procession travelled along the seafront on Saturday, July 30, set to the poignant backdrop of the First World War Tommy statue and Cenotaph War Memorial.

Billed as the North East’s largest bike meet, the procession was led by local bikers, Eights and Aces.

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Member and former paratrooper Andrew Harrison, 52, who helped organise the event, said: “I served for 20 years and when I came out, like most former service personnel, I experienced mental health difficulties.

"The majority of people leaving the forces experience mental health difficulties which can be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from what they may have witnessed or the difficulties of returning to civilian life.

"Many veterans turn to motorbike groups for support. It gives people a purpose and provides a camaraderie that can help replace that support network in the forces. It’s also a way for people to release the tension and stresses they may have experienced.

"We’ve had a fantastic turn-out with around 300 bikers and people have been waving, cheering and showing their support. People in Seaham have always really valued the armed forces.”

The Rolling Thunder veterans' motorbike procession on Seaham seafront.

Veterans travelled from across the country to take part in the event including Rolling Thunder leader and former paratrooper Graham Parson, 57, who had rode his bike from Kent.

He said: “People underestimate the difficulties veterans can have when they leave the forces and it’s important they get all the help they can.”

Following the seafront procession, the veterans held a short Remembrance service for fallen heroes which included laying two wreaths at the town’s war memorial.

Korean War veteran Bobby Lamb, 90, with son Gary Lamb, 63.

One of those laying a wreath was Eights and Aces biker and former army serviceman John Main.

John, 51, told the Echo: “It’s absolutely vital we remember the sacrifices veterans have made. This is also a statement of the biking community coming together to raise the awareness of mental health.”

Among the crowd of people watching the procession was Sunderland man Bobby Lamb, 90, who saw active service during the Korean War on HMS Comus.

Bobby, who proudly displayed his medals, said: “It’s very important we remember people’s sacrifices. I go to all the veterans’ events and I’m impressed with the turn-out.”

Rolling Thunder veterans' motorbike riders start to gather around the Tommy statue on Seaham seafront.

Son Gary Lamb, 63, added: “It’s important to recognise the help veterans need when they leave the service. The Government want people to sign up to the armed forces but there’s very little help when they come out.”

The event was also raising money for veterans’ charity Tail End Charlie.

Andrew added: “In military terms a tail end Charlie was the person at the back covering everyone else’s backs. The charity plays the same role in covering the backs of veterans’ welfare after they leave the forces.”

The Rolling Thunder bike movement was set up to raise the Government’s awareness of the difficulties experienced by a large number of armed forces veterans following exposure to the horrors of war and returning to civilian life.

The event had added significance as it was the first since the movement’s founder, former veteran Harry Wragg, died.

Some of the hundreds of veterans who took part in the Rolling Thunder motorbike procession to raise the profile of the issue of mental health welfare for former armed forces personnel.
Eights and Aces bikers and armed forces veterans John Main (left) and Andrew Harrison.
Eights and Aces bikers were taking part in the Rolling Thunder veterans' motorbike procession.