Injured Blackpool veteran set for gruelling tower to tower ride to raise funds for forces charity

A Blackpool forces veteran is gearing up to ride from Blackpool Tower to the Eiffel Tower in Paris using a hand cycle.

By Tim Gavell
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 11:49 am

Former Royal Artillery gunner Lee Warburton suffered a severe spinal injury during a training exercise that left him unable to use his right foot and having to endure a series of gruelling operations.

Now although the 25-year-old dad of two is awaiting an operation to amputate his right leg below the knee, he is in training to hand crank his bike 561 miles to raise money for forces charity Help For Heroes.

Lee said he wanted to give something back after being supported by the charity like so many other veterans with rehabilitation exercises, access to sports, and mental health and wellbeing services.

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Veteran Lee Warburton is riding from Blackpool tower to the Eiffel tower to raise money for Help for Heroes

Lee, who lives in Bispham, is also planning a gala dinner at Viva Blackpool on November 11, featuring Nathan Grisdale and singer-songwriter Passmore, to raise more money for the charity and highlight its work on the Fylde coast.

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Lee said: “I am setting off from the Comedy Carpet near Blackpool Tower on August 8 and am hoping people will come along to support me.

"I was a keen recumbent cyclist, but having lost the use of my leg, I switched to hand bikes. It’s all very new, you really have to time your gear changes well particularly going up hill or the chain comes off.

Veteran Lee Warburton is riding from Blackpool tower to the Eiffel tower to raise money for Help for Heroes

"I have done a lot of training in the gym to prepare and have a support team of four. Currently we are looking to borrow a small van, big enough to put the 6ft long bike in if it breaks down.”

Lee joined the army in 2012 becoming a gunner and serving in Canada Germany and the UK, but had his accident in 2015.

He explained: "I had picked up an injury in training but just carried on as it was only a niggly one, but then got hurt again. We were on exercise and I had some extra weight in my Bergen (back-pack) carrying kit for a friend. The strapped snapped, swinging the weight to one side and I fell into a ravine damaging my spine.

"It was fine for a bit, you just carry on when you are in the army, but eventually the doctors investigated and decided to operate in 2018.

"But because it was left for so long, I ended up with severe nerve damage on my right leg.

"I had several spinal operations but they did not work and I cannot bear weight on that leg and it feels like it is on fire. I am now waiting for the amputation in the next eight months.”

He said one of the reasons his ride was important was to highlight help available from the charity for veterans who are struggling.

"I want to publicise just how much Help For Heroes do around the North West. Around 70 per cent of the British Army is recruited from the region. A lot of the veterans here are struggling and don’t know where to go for help.”

He said the ride could be painful as he has problems with his back and his leg is painful all the time, but the hand bike does not put too much pressure on the body.

"I can’t wait to get going. It has taken months of planning. I have got a new hand cycle which has come from America and the training is going well.”

People can support Lee on his epic ride at his JustGiving page and tickets for the gala dinner can be had here.