Fundraiser follows in the footsteps of his prisoner of war Grandfather to raise money for Combat Stress

A fundraiser from Stoke-on-Trent will be following in the footsteps of his grandfather, by cycling the 760 mile route the prisoner of war took during the Second World War.  On 21 February 2018 Martin Palmer and his father Stephen Palmer will start their journey from Poland to Germany to raise funds for Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

“My Grandfather didn’t really speak about World War II, I knew he was a prisoner of war, but it wasn’t until I started researching that I found out what he went through. I remember him mentioning that he went on a walk across Europe, but he didn’t say any more than that. I discovered that this was a 760 mile walk during one of the worst winters on record, with temperatures reaching -25c.”

Reading about his grandfather’s experience inspired Martin to recreate the route the prisoners of war took in 1945 from Malbork, Poland to just outside Berlin, Germany.

“I’ve done a few bike rides before, but the longest has been 230 miles for a local hospice so this will be a challenge. It will take us three days to get there and then we’ve planned for it to take 15 days, doing 50 miles a day. Although my dad will be driving a support van, we’re going to try to beg and borrow accommodation like the prisoners of war had to and I’ll be pulling a trailer with all my stuff that weighs around 25kg. At that time of year we will also be battling against limited day light which also adds to the challenge.”

Having both served in the Army, Martin and Stephen chose to support Combat Stress after a few of their friends received treatment through the charity.

“I think times are changing and people are beginning to be more open about mental health problems. A few of my friends who never talked about their mental health are now seeking help and a few are getting that help from Combat Stress. I wanted to be able to use this challenge to put some money back in to the charity that’s helping my friends.”

Robert Marsh, Director Income Generation at Combat Stress said;

“We’re so grateful to Martin and Stephen for choosing to support Combat Stress through this incredible challenge.

“Each year we receive 2,000 referrals from former servicemen and women with issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important that we raise awareness and funds for the charity to enable us to continue to support every veteran that comes to us for help. Without fundraisers like Martin and Stephen we wouldn’t be able to continue providing this life changing treatment.”

To sponsor Martin and Stephen please visit their Virgin Money Giving page.


For more information please contact Holly Ayres, PR Officer, on 01372 587165 or

Notes to editors:

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

For almost a century we’ve helped former servicemen and women deal with issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Over the past five years (2012 to 2017) we have seen an average of more than 2,000 referrals each year. Demand for our services continues to grow – we have seen a 143% increase in referrals from ten years ago.

On average it takes 12 years after leaving the military for veterans to contact Combat Stress for help, by which time their condition is often highly complex. However, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are coming to Combat Stress much sooner (three and four years respectively).

To help veterans rebuild their lives, we provide a range of free services:

  • Short-stay clinical treatment at our treatment centres
  • A specialist Intensive Treatment Programme – delivered at our treatment centres
  • Community Teams – providing treatment and practical support to veterans. Last year our regional community teams undertook almost 5,400 face-to-face appointments
  • Outpatients – assessment by psychiatrists and psychologists – at our treatment centres and in the community – enables us to diagnose, define and deliver the treatment veterans require
  • Occupational therapy – delivered at our treatment centres and in the community, we use meaningful and creative activity to encourage hope, wellbeing and recovery
  • Peer Support Service – Led by veterans for veterans, it’s the first UK-wide service of its kind for those with mental health problems. The service enables them to share their experiences, receive support and socialise with others with similar experiences.
  • Substance Misuse Case Management Service – helping veterans to access the services for their drug and alcohol problems so their mental health issues can be addressed
  • Our 24-hour Helpline is there for veterans, serving personnel and their families (0800 138 1619)

Useful links

Our website:
On Twitter: @CombatStress
On Facebook:
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By @Cobseo 55 years ago

Afghanistan support

In light of recent events in Afghanistan, please find information and support resources here