‘We did him proud’ – firefighters return from epic challenge in memory of late colleague

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BATTERED but not beaten, 21 men have returned home from an epic challenge in memory of a late colleague.

The group travelled 325 miles over land and through water during the Strong Arm Challenge to raise money in memory of firefighter Peter Metcalfe.

Ian Metcalfe (back) and Cousin Paul Defty lead the way in the kayak

Ian Metcalfe (back) and Cousin Paul Defty lead the way in the kayak

The 35-year-old, from West Boldon, died of stomach cancer in June 2012 – just days after he had been diagnosed with the disease.

Peter, who married wife Angela days before he died, only became aware he was ill after returning from white water rafting during a stag weekend and found bruises on his legs.

He went to the doctor and was admitted for tests which revealed he had stomach cancer, and died 16 days after first seeking medical attention.

Friends and family, who raised money in Peter’s memory earlier in the year at a sponsored golf tournament at Boldon Golf Club, organised the Strong Arm Challenge to highlight the circumstances in which the Hebburn-based fireman died, as well as to raise money for the Fire Fighter’s Charity, and the Make a Wish Foundation.

Peter Metcalfe

Peter Metcalfe

The group kayaked across Loch Ness and ran a marathon over Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, during the four-day challenge, raising just under £28,000 for the charity.

Peter’s brother Warren, 41, a firefighter for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, who was part of the support group for those taking part, said it was emotional.

“At the bottom of Ben Nevis when we stopped, there were a few moments when I remembered why we were doing it,” he said.

“To see so many of Peter’s friends and work colleagues giving their time and money means a lot to me and my family.

“It was great to see so many people and families who have supported it there.”

The group, including Warren and Peter’s younger brother Ian, 31, cycled to finish their gruelling journey, which Warren said was “horrific” at times for those taking part, and arrived back at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service headquarters, Barmston Mere, just after 6pm on Thursday.

Peter’s friend Paul Thompson, watch manager at Washington Fire Station, who organised the challenge, said it was “fantastic, but hard.”

“I chose to organise this event because I think if you are going to ask people for money, you have to earn it,” he said.

“Peter would have loved this. He loved sports and he loved a challenge.

“I’m pleased with how it’s gone. Everyone’s back in one piece, and everyone enjoyed it, and we’ve raised a really decent amount of money.

“I think we’ve done him proud.”