Richard Stoodley

Richard's D-DAY. NORMANDY - STALAG IVB 1800 mile BIKE RIDE page

Fundraising for SUPPORT OUR PARAS
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In memory of BOB STOODLEY

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RCN 1131977
We support our PARAs and their families to bring them help and a life they deserve




78 years ago 23:10 on 5th June 1944, four Albemarle Aircraft took off from RAF Harwell near Didcot bound for Normandy.

Each of these planes carried ten members of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company - The PathFinders - not to the beaches of Normandy, but inland, behind enemy lines. 

Their mission was to secure the Drop Zones and deploy Eureka Radio Beacon and Landing Lights to guide in the main Paratrooper battalions from the 6th Airborne division – 8th Para – whose crucial job was to destroy bridges on the River Dives, east of Caen and protecting main D-Day invasion from the Eastern flank. 

Jumping out with the other brave men at 00:20 on D-Day from just 500 ft was my Dad.

He was 20 years old.  Lance Corporal Robert ‘Bob’ Stoodley.

After successfully deploying his Eureka Beacon and after guiding in the Paratroopers who then moved on to their missions, an enemy armoured unit moved into the Drop Zone area.

It was crucial that the Eureka Beacon would not be captured and compromised by the enemy so my Dad destroyed it, but in doing so gave up his own position where he was then mortared in a ditch, blown up and injured. 

He was captured and tied to the back of the armoured vehicle which was then fired at (and hit) by his own side not knowing my Dad was on it.  The Tank driver turned the vehicle round to reverse out of the area under fire and my Dad believes this saved his life.

He was then interrogated by the Feldgendarmerie (SS Field Police) at a French Chateau and then sent to a POW Hospital in Rennes for treatment then transferred to the main Rennes POW camp still with injuries.  

Along with about 600 other POWs, he was loaded on a Train, not knowing where he was going and transported in appalling cramped and unsanitary conditions to Stalag IV-B – the biggest POW camp in Germany – just south of Berlin. 

We understand this was one of 2 POW Trains from Rennes, this one on 5thJuly and the second left on Aug 3rd.

The trip took about 23 days and was perilous with the Train mainly moving at night and often being targeted and fired at (straffed) by allied forces thinking it was carrying supplies for the enemy, and many prisoners were killed.

These were not Train carriages as we know them, but wooden ‘Box Cars’ used to carry livestock with just straw on the floor and the only windows high up in the wall.

In 1945 the Stalag was ‘liberated’ by the Russian Army, but POW’s remained incarcerated under new but more relaxed control. 

My Dad with his friend he had met who eventually became his Best Man, managed to ‘escape’ and eventually make their way over the destroyed bridge over the River Elbe at Torgau into the security of the advancing allied forces.



78 years later, not on a train, but on a Bike, I am going to follow that route as closely as possible and retrace my Dad’s journey setting off on   5th June from  RAF Harwell, Oxfordshire then arriving in Normandy on D-Day for the celebrations before I commence my journey in earnest.

Although my route will mainly be by road shadowing the Train lines, there are sections where the old railways lines are now gravel paths and whenever I can I will aim to follow these tracks too. 

All in all the route will be about 1800 miles (3000km) and I aim to carry this out over about 21 days averaging about 90 miles per day. 

The exact Train route is unknown as many detours would have been in place due to destroyed lines and bridges, but with my Dads 97 year old memory, Google Satellite Maps and the help of an American historian (whose Uncle, a captured B52 Gunner was on the 2nd Train out of Rennes) and her research, I have planned a route that will take in as much of the route as possible even though some can only be the best estimation. 

There will be some key places I need to visit from my Dad's memory, and after the first day in Normandy visiting the important battle sites relevant to my Dad's story as well as the Memorial Services, I will also be staying overnight at Chateau du Maneville which is the very Chateau which Dad was interrogated. 

I am also visiting the Memorial Musee Pegasus where I will present Mark Worthington, the Curator and good friend of my Dad's - his WW2 service Medals and also a carved wooden Parachute Regiment emblem which the family all chipped in to give to my Dad for his 97th Birthday, and his wishes were that it should be donated to the Pegasus Museum. 

I am doing this for myself but also for my Dad who turned 97 in May 2021 but unfortunately left us 3 months later in August that year. We spent hours talking about the trip and planned so much of it together.

He was the final remaining D-Day Pathfinder.

For the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I rode down to Normandy through Belgium and France visiting the WW1 War Graves and the interest I got from this journey was huge.

This is a much harder task and will also be emotional as I weave my way through France and Germany 78 years later. Im just gutted that due to Covid restrictions that I could not share this trip with Dad whilst he was still with us.

The riding itself will be demanding but not overly difficult, it’s more about the story and sticking to the route including at times, dis-used railway tracks as close as possible as a mark of respect to those who fought for our Country.

Follow my Journey

This trip will get great exposure for the few remaining Veterans and also serve as education and reminders about the War, and I aim to promote it daily via Instagram and Facebook, with updates, videos and photos of this epic trip.

It will be covered by my Hill Climb sponsor TRUESAPIEN a great social media following.  I will also be doing follow up blogs and articles and hope it will get some other media coverage.

I am also planning to set up a specific website where all the information and stories and links can be found.

I hope that this trip will help educate and remind others of just what these brave men and women did for us all those years ago and maybe help make people appreciate and reflect on how lucky we all are today. 

Fund Raising:

Although this event was not set out to be solely a Fund Raising Event, I know for a fact people would like to show appreciation to my Dad, for his service and also chip in to me as a way of showing their support. 

I was not even going to set a target, but after Dad died, I wanted to make sure that this journey had real meaning and therefore Ive set a target of £6644  to reflect on the day that changed our lives in so many ways 6.6.44  - D-DAY.

Support Our Paras was the obvious choice as a beneficiary of any kind donations, and regardless of their fantastic work they do with Parachute Regiment Veterans, they also attended Dad's funeral with members of 4 PARA, the Parachute Regiment Association, Standard Bearers and a Bugler, as well as serving members of my Dad's company - The PathFinders.   

For that alone I cannot thank them enough. 


About me. 

I turned 60 in March and have been cycling just 9 years. I’m not particularly fast, but keep fit and the older I get the fitter I seem to become. 

I compete in Hill Climbs for TrueSapien and always put in 110%.

I am actually an Auctioneer as a profession and as I am working only when needed I have plenty of free time for my training and keeping fit. I also run a little.

My biggest rides have been 217 miles in a day and I did 201 miles solo and have done countless centuries. 

I am involved heavily into Hill Climb Racing on Bikes and I have organised Cycling Events,Races and Hill Climbs.

Thank you for your time.

Richard Stoodley

‘Rapid Rich’


SUPPORT OUR PARAS does what it says on the tin. We support our Paras in The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces through the welfare of veterans, serving soldiers and their families and widows, and through the maintenance of its regimental efficiency, ethos, spirit and heritage.

We  provide welfare assistance to veterans, serving soldiers and families to complement or fill the gaps in State provision, as well as supporting vital aspects of the Regiment’s daily life and history. This support includes funding:

  • Mobility equipment and adaptations
  • Mental Health Support
  • Employment and Training
  • Hardship
  • Funerals
  • Household Goods
  • Sporting equipment for wounded and Regimental teams
  • Adventure Training for serving troops
  • Assistance with travel and other costs on compassionate grounds
  • Memorials to those who have served

SUPPORT OUR PARAS is the trading name of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Charity, registered as Charity No 1131977 and at Companies House No 07005997

About the charity


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RCN 1131977
We exist solely to support The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, looking after veterans, serving soldiers and families within our Airborne community. We're there for our nation’s paratroopers through the good and the bad, from the moment they join our family to the sounding of the last post.

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