HMS Echo pedals in the tracks of Monty

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Echo pedals in the tracks of Monty
4 July 2012

Sailors on survey HMS Echo completed the Full Monty in the sweltering heat of the Mediterranean.

Not like that. The ship’s company mirrored the advance of the legendary WW2 general from Tobruk to Tripoli 70 years ago by cycling the 630-mile distance.

Pedalling by example… Echo’s CO Cdr Matt Syrett (left) and AB Matthew Baker-Irons do their hour-long cycling stint

IT TOOK Monty two and a half months.

HMS Echo managed to do it in 24 hours – but then they didn’t have Rommel and his panzers to contend with…

Or the dust of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica… Just the heat.

Sailors from the survey ship clambered on to exercise bikes to cycle the 630 miles (1,015km) from Tobruk to Tripoli to mark the 70th anniversary of routing of the Desert Fox by the Eighth Army – and to bolster the funds of Great Ormond Street

The Devonport-based survey ship is on the final leg of a 19-month deployment, the bulk of which has been spent east of Suez. Now in the Mediterranean, Echo is continuing to gather data to improve maritime charts of the Middle Sea and gather other important scientific and hydrographic data to add to our understanding of these waters.

Almost the Full Monty doing the Full Monty… AB Smith on the left minus most of his clothes in the Med heat cycles away next to shipmate AB Gordon

Despite such operations, there’s always time for ‘phys’ – a spot of physical exercise to keep the 48 sailors aboard ship-shape, so with two exercise bikes on the upper deck and the added incentive of helping sick youngsters – not least the daughter of Echo’s CPO ‘Ned’ Needham who is currently being treated by the world-famous children’s hospital – Echo knuckled down the ‘Full Monty Challenge’.

The ship’s company volunteered to cycle for an hour each with the target of 13½ miles (22km) – although Sub Lt Hywel smashed that milestone; he passed the 22km mark in just over 31 minutes and when his hour was up had covered 23½ miles (38km) – roughly the equivalent of Plymouth to Totnes.

The general himself following the opening moves of the Battle of Alamein from the turret of his Grant tank. Picture: Imperial War Museum E18980

While the riders were pedalling furiously, the rest of the crew passed around a collection bucket which was filled with well over £400 by the time the 24-hour slog was done; £245 has come in through the event’s Just Giving website (www.justgiving.com/echodoesfullmonty).

 “I am humbled by the efforts of the ship’s company over the weekend to complete this mammoth task and raise all the money we have.  With my daughter being treated in hospital it’s good to know that this money will help others in our situation,” said CPO Needham.

Echo is due home in Devonport next month after a spot more survey work in the Med and handing over the baton to her sister ship Enterprise.

And for the record… Field Marshal Montgomery and his Eighth Army liberated Tobruk on November 13 1942, followed by Tripoli on January 23 1943.

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