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Trio set to recreate heroic crossing

PUBLISHED: 09:52 17 May 2011

IT was a treacherous crossing first attempted 70 years ago by those fleeing Nazi-occupied Netherlands during the Second World War.

Now a trio of adventurous fundraisers are following in the historic footsteps of the “Engelandvaarders” who rowed across the North Sea to a beach in Sizewell on September 19, 1941.

Tragically, some 56 hours later, only eight of the 32 Dutchmen survived the hostile water and the journey has not been tried since.

But Alec Greenwell, Ed Cooper and Harry Franks, who all come from the Woodbridge area, plan to recreate the 130-mile crossing.

The intrepid trio will row non-stop against the natural current in aid of The Suffolk Foundation and Combat Stress, which provides support for ex-servicemen and women.

They plan to leave Katwijk, just north of The Hague, in late August and land on Sizewell Beach 35 to 40 hours later.

Alec, 23, from Orford, said: “We’re determined to keep the crossing an amateur affair, as it was for the men in 1941.”

Ed, 24 and also from Orford, added: “Sleep deprivation is going to be an issue and we’re obviously keeping our fingers crossed for the weather.”

They will be escorted on the crossing by a support craft that will see them through the busy shipping channels.

They are currently training hard for their gruelling challenge and can regularly be seen in the estuaries and on the sea in and around Orford.

They already have a sponsor on board – Sea Kayaking UK – but are keen for anyone else who might be able to help out to get in touch.

Harry, 25, from Sutton, said: “The Engelandvaarders crossing is a story of commitment and heroism and we wanted to do something to honour that while at the same time raising money and awareness for these two fantastic charities. We have been putting in a lot of hours. It’s going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it.

“Anyone who would like to sponsor us – or any businesses or individuals who might be able to help out – should just get in touch.”

In 2009, a monument was erected on the beach at Sizewell to celebrate those Dutchmen that made the crossing.

The poignant symbol of a pair of crossed kayak oars and one broken paddle is a timely reminder of the 24 souls lost to the North Sea.

For more information or to sponsor the trio, visit www.northsea.moonfruit.com, www.justgiving.com/Engelandvaader2011-SuffolkFoundation or email northsea@live.co.uk

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