Many of you may recognise local resident Tony Benham as the organiser of Remembrance Sunday ceremonies and Wally from Yaşam İçin Yarış (Race For Life Turkey) – well you may not recognise him dressed as Wally!
This year, coronavirus pandemic allowing, Tony plans to take part in the Frontier Walk to raise money for ABF The Soldier’s Charity.
Fethiye Times met with Tony to find out more.
A bit about Tony
“My name is Tony Benham and I am a retired Firefighter now residing with my wife, Sonia, and 16-year-old daughter in Ovacık. We have owned property here for 16 years and moved out here in 2016.
In 2018, I inaugurated the first Remembrance Sunday here in Ovacık.
I had always attended the ceremonies in the UK, from being a flag bearer as a Cub Scout, to taking my daughter as a babe in arms.
2018 was a massively significant year as it was the centenary of the start of The Great War.
I was given permission to hold a ceremony by the local Mayor and advertised it locally. The response was very good and people asked if it would become an annual event.
We held a second ceremony last year, which coincided with the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürks. Our ceremony was a remembrance of both occasions and was attended by British and Turkish people standing shoulder to shoulder.
I have been interested in the World Wars since studying the subject to GCSE level at school, helped by a very passionate and knowledgeable teacher.
My father also had a passion for the subject and built a cabinet for the purpose of displaying family war medals.
When I joined the Fire Service in 1985, I found myself working alongside many ex-servicemen, who were drawn to the disciplined environment, similar to what they had been used to during their time in the services.”
How did I get involved with the Frontline Walk?
“I lost my Father in 2014 and inherited the box of medals and some of the paperwork from his efforts to trace relatives from the World Wars.
Having also gone through a personally challenging couple of years between 2013-2015, including the death of my father, I wasn’t in a particularly good place.
And then, in 2015, I saw the “Frontline Walk” on Facebook.
I turned to my then girlfriend – now wife – and said, if I get through this, I’m going to sign up for this walk”
And that’s what Tony did.
This was in the October of 2015. Tony walked it again in 2017 and 2018.
What is The Frontline Walk?
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the national charity of the British Army, providing a lifetime of support to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families when they are in need. The Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) was founded in 1944 to ensure that soldiers returning from World War Two were well cared for. Since then, the welfare of soldiers, past and present, and their families has been at the heart of everything the charity does.
The Frontline Walk is a sponsored trek following in the footsteps of those who fought in WWI or WWII whilst supporting the soldiers and veterans of today.
Covering 100km of the Western Front, the Walk starts at Lochnagar Crater, the location of the start of the Battle of the Somme, and finishes at the Menin Gate, with the Ceremony of the Last Post.
More than just a walk
Tony talks about his experience of the walk.
“Back to back days of walking make it a fairly tough challenge. Your feet take a pounding, where you are, the purpose of the walk and the camaraderie carry you through.
The walk takes in memorials such as the Thiepval Memorial, the Ulster Tower, Vimy Ridge, Tyne Cot Cemetery and ends at the Menin Gate in Ypres, one of the most visited war memorials in Western Europe.
In 2018, there was one of many emotional moments when I found my great uncle George Charles Benham remembered on the Arras Memorial. He was in the 2nd/10th London (Hackney) Regiment.
The memorial commemorates 35,942 soldiers of the forces of the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand, with no known grave, who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918.”
” I was able to lay a wreath, both at the memorial in Arras where he is named, and at the Menin gate on the last evening of the walk, a truly humbling and very emotional experience. Indeed, the whole walk is a roller coaster of emotions.”
The Frontier Walk 2021
The walk was postponed last year due to Covid 19 however, Tony plans to take part in this year’s walk which is scheduled to take place between 13 – 17 October.
“I’m taking part in an event for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, raising funds for soldiers, veterans and their families. I’ve joined their Fundraising Army – I started at Private and have been challenged to see how far I can rise! Please support if you can.” – Tony Benham