London woman to retrace her mum’s post-war cycle ride to Paris

17 September 2018

East Londoner Caroline Woods is recreating the London to Paris bike ride her mum completed after the Second World War ended. She will complete the 190-mile ride with her three sons in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Caroline and her sons

Caroline and her sons

The ride, which starts on World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), will take Caroline and her sons Joseph, 25, Max, 21 and Arthur, 19, three days to complete and will follow the route her mum June Linger took in September 1948, though it will look very different 73 years on. Unfortunately, her mum won’t know of her daughter’s ride in her honour as she is now living with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 93.

June's 90th birthday

June’s 90th birthday

Caroline said her mum had talked about the ride when her brother and her were children but she hadn’t really thought about how much of a challenge it must have been to cycle such a distance just after the war.

She said:

“Mum had a boyfriend back then and they both liked to cycle so they decided to go to Paris. However, they got very little support and found it difficult finding places to stay. They went by ferry and had created a trailer out of an old pram.

“When they were returning from Paris the wheels on their pram trailer came off and they were stuck in a small Normandy village not knowing what to do. Mum couldn’t speak French but tried her hand and kept going up to villagers asking where the station was so that they could get home. What she thought she was saying was ‘ou est la gare?’ – ‘where is the station?’ What she was actually saying was ‘ou est la guerre’ – ‘where is the war?’ This obviously got a lot of attention from the people in the village square she was asking.

“I remember her telling me how happy they were to tell her ‘La guerre est finie’ – ‘the war is finished’ and kept hugging her as they were so happy and wanted her to be happy.

“When she realised her mistake she was too embarrassed to let them all down and had to pretend that is what she meant. She said that her and her boyfriend were bought drinks all night which they accepted guiltily. They then left their trailer there, took what they could and crept off in the middle of the night and cycled home.”

The social worker added that her mum had told her how sad and envious she had been during the ride as Paris was still such a beautiful city while large parts of London, especially the East End where she was from, were reduced to rubble.

She said:

“Save for the light-weight aluminium/carbon fibre bikes, full medical support and Eurostar home there will be little difference between our trip and mum’s! Oh and the padded Lycra shorts!

“It is a shame she won’t know we’re doing this in her honour, but she is now in a care home following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2015. We want this ride to not only be a great memory that we can treasure as a family but also something that will help make breakthroughs in dementia research possible.”

The team had planned to raise £2,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK but have already reached £2,500 and are hoping to raise even more in the days leading up to and after the ride.

Christie Hyland, Regional Fundraising Officer for London, said:

“The challenge Caroline and her sons are embarking on is a really personal pilgrimage and a wonderful way to honour June so we are very grateful that they have chosen to support dementia research by raising thousands for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“It is only with the backing of people like Caroline, Joseph, Max and Arthur that we can make breakthroughs possible.”

To sponsor them visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/caroline-woods13

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org