Former soldier defies the odds to Ride To The Wall
Two firms in Newark helped a terminally-ill former soldier complete the Ride To The Wall and pay his respects to fallen comrades.
Dean Cumberpatch, 46, of Collingham, had always wanted to take part in the ride — an annual pilgrimage by up to 20,000 motorcyclists to the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.
Dean has frontal temporal lobe dementia, a terminal degenerative disease.
He also has post-traumatic stress disorder after service in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and believes his dementia resulted from exposure to depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War (Gulf War syndrome).
Dean’s illness meant his motorcycle licence was withdrawn.
He can still drive a car and searched eBay for a trike, as three-wheelers are classed as cars, that could make the 125-mile round trip to Staffordshire.
Dean, who was with Queen’s Company of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, continues to defy doctors’ expectations by outliving the five years he was told he had left, and treats every day as a bonus.
'The first time I really addressed a lot of issues'
“There is borrowed time and I am borrowing beyond that,” Dean said.
“I had never been to the National Memorial Arboretum, but it was something I always wanted to do.
“When Ride To The Wall started ten years ago, 500 riders took part but today the number is 20,000.
“It is one of the most important things to me that happens in the country for Remembrance.
“I was nervous the night before I went. I just couldn’t settle. It was the first time that I really addressed a lot of the issues that resulted from my service.
“I was going to see mates on the wall that I served with.”
Eight years ago, Dean lost five friends in Iraq.
He has since lost many more through illness or who have taken their own lives.
“It wasn’t about me,” Dean said.
“It was about getting out there to show my respects. To lay my hand on the names of my mates etched on the wall.
“It was almost overwhelming. I was trying to find reasons not to do it, but everyone encouraged me and, in the end, I wouldn’t have liked myself if I had backed out.”
'Faith and support'
Dean’s Rewaco VW trike needed a lot of work.
He took it to classic and vintage restoration specialists 181 Classic Motors Ltd on Newark’s Brunel Drive Industrial Estate for owner Malcolm Hazard and his team to look over.
The trike was stripped, rebuilt and tuned at cost price.
It was fitted with a Poppy Appeal Lest We Forget flag to flutter from the back, and was fitted with Guards’ insignia.
“When I explained the situation to Malcolm nothing was too much. They are like a fantastic family,” Dean said.
“My biggest worry was that the trike would break down and I would be stuck at the side of the road, and with my dementia, that I wouldn’t know what to do, but thanks to them that was never going to happen. The engine never missed a beat.”
The trike then went to Crawford’s in Newark, where Wayne Crawford painted it, also at cost price.
Dean was in touch with a group of military bikers from Leicestershire, the Hungry Hogs, who said he could ride with them.
They provided a buddy who collected him on his doorstep and rode with him all the way there and back.
“I couldn’t have done it without all of the faith and support that people gave me,” Dean said.
“It boosted me into doing something special. It reignited my confidence.
“It was such a touching service (at the arboretum). You could hear a pin drop,” Dean said.
'It was very emotional'
Dean’s wife, Claire, said: “While I wanted to go and make sure he was OK, it was something I felt he needed to do on his own.
“He kept texting me to say how proud he was. It was very emotional.”
Dean is benefitting from new medication that is slowing down the advancement of the dementia.
He had given up on life and had not set himself any goals for many years.
He spent two years in the same room playing computer games until he lost his hand/eye co-ordination.
In his words, he was waiting for death, but that changed thanks to support from Newark Patriotic Fund and when he and Claire took up dog training.
The couple took on two Neapolitan mastiffs.
Dean qualified for Crufts this year with Vallino Hero Of The Day, or Franco for short.
He was unable to show Franco at Crufts himself, but Franco won his class.
Dean and Claire had to give up their show dogs, however, after Dean had an operation on his stomach earlier in the year.
They are now breeding bulldogs. Their bitch, Nelly, is pregnant with a litter and the line is registered as Grenabears bulldogs. Dean’s legacy will be that the pups and subsequent offspring will all have regimental names.
“It will take the name on forever, which is something that Claire wanted,” Dean said.