Blackburn veterans need your support for Operation Banham

Next month veterans from Blackburn will be retracing the journey of one of the last remaining WWII dispatch riders to commemorate D-Day – but they need more donations.

Blackburn’s Veterans Living History Museum (VLHM) are organising a charity event, which will see ex-forces veterans relive the journey of Lewis Banham, now 99, who landed on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944.  

Operation Banham, funded by donations, will pay tribute to these heroic riders used by armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. They had a vital role when telecommunications were limited and insecure.

With their Army-issue bike, gun and a few supplies, despatch riders were tasked with delivering messages to infantry on the front line, without the enemy knowing.

Lewis, then 21-year-old from Weir, Rossendale, was posted to the 44 Infantry Brigade, 15 Scottish Infantry Division and was only four weeks married when he began his part of the war effort.

The ride will take the veterans from Blackburn through France, Belgium, Holland and finally to Berlin whilst riding a WD BSA M20 similar to Lewis’s, as well as taking and riding a new BSA Gold Star on loan from the new BSA Company.

Wayne Hester, from VLHM, said: “We will be setting off from Blackburn on 9June, accompanied by scooter and bike clubs. We will be heading down to Peterborough to the RAF camp where we’ll stay overnight before crossing from Dover to Normandy the following morning.

“Lewis is set to fly over and greet us in Berlin, with his son, where at 15:00hrs on 15 June he will be handed his final dispatch notice.”

The Veterans Living History Museum have a hub for veterans on Ordnance Street. They are relying on donations to make the trip become a reality – but are still short of their target.

The National Motorcycle Museum is supporting Op Banham with its very own restoration team preparing & servicing the BSA M20, complete with his number, with support from BSA themselves.

Lewis and his son attended the National Motorcycle Museum on 26 April to see the restored bike handed over to the VLHM team.

Wayne added: “Lewis was unsure whether he would be able to make the unveiling of his restored bike after breaking his arm. However, supported by his comrades, he went with them to collect the bike. All the way home Lewis was glowing.”

Although Lewis had to adapt quickly and see things most of us couldn’t ever imagine, he brightens when speaking about his Army-issue bike.

Affectionately named ‘Old Faithful’, the bike was with Lewis from the start to the end of the war, and only had to be mended once during that time.

For more details, and for how to donate much needed funds:

The VLHM is the focus of a Blackburn Business Improvement District (BID) window display at Pelle Menswear on King William Street to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

©2022 Blackburn BID

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