Lincs-based HMS Yarmageddon runs neither silent nor deep on the Veterans’ Banger Rally

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, then the 1,500-mile road from Dover to Gibraltar on the Veterans’ Banger Rally (VBR) is paved with enthusiasm.

For anyone not familiar with the VBR, it is a road trip like almost no other. Instead of the glitz and glamour of some similar events, such as the fictitious Cannonball Run and the real Gumball Rally, it is not a race, but is instead sponsored Darwinism in action with survival of the fittest – or most reliable – being key. Vehicles must cost no more than £500 with monies raised going to charity.

SSAFA, the Armed forces charity, was again one the main beneficiaries, though entrants could also fundraise for their own causes.

One of those vehicles entered in the recent running of the VBR was HMS Yarmageddon. With her homeport in Immingham, Lincs, she bears an uncanny resemblance to a bargain-basement Renault Megane fitted with a loud PA system, and an aftermarket conning tower fabricated from a couple of barrels and all painted in military matt black.

Crewed by two former matelots and a serving prison officer – respectively submariner Harry Smith, Leading Weapons Engineering Mechanic Chris Skelhorn, and Gavin Archer – Yarmageddon is named in honour of her main sponsor*, Classic Rock Tours and its local festival at – yes, you have guessed correctly – Great Yarmouth.

Harry takes up the story, saying:

If our Veterans’ Banger Rally began a little strangely, then it ended surreally.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think the three of us would be driving up the M1 in a ‘submarine’ with Roy, an 84-year-old Chelsea Pensioner, and a giant stuffed dog called Dave – the event mascot which we were awarded at the end of the rally – eating chocolate eclairs, watching a video of the world conker championships, which Roy is MC of.”

But before this, Harry, Chris, and Gavin took in the sights as they motored south, with traversing the Pyrenees a highlight for them, and engaging in cultural activities including a fancy dress night in Malaga.

The teams put a lot of effort into their costumes. We, for example, went as the ‘The Three Mustgetbeers’: Bartagnion, Baramis, and Pourus…” said Harry.

It was, of course, all in aid of charity, with Yarmageddon setting forth on behalf of not only SSAFA, but also homelessness charity St Mungo’s.

Both are issues close to Harry’s heart.

He said:

Since retiring I have spent much of my time doing voluntary work and a degree in counselling at uni as I feel strongly that UK veterans are not looked after as they should be once they leave the Forces.

This was my main reason for SSAFA being one of my charities, and St Mungo’s being the other as I feel strongly about the number of veterans who end up homeless, which is a disgusting situation.”

The crew of Yarmageddon has so far raised £1,097 via Just Giving and £900 cash for SSAFA and a similar amount for St Mungo. Donations can still be made at

And what of the latest addition to the Silent Service? The old girl acquitted herself honourably, covering the 3,000-mile round trip with no issues apart from the tyres occasionally needing inflating.

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By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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