Seven injured servicemen and veterans of the armed forces have travelled with Pilgrim Bandits Charity based in New Milton, Hampshire to Spitsbergen, Norway in the Arctic.
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. During a week’s expedition, code- named Operation Polar Bear, the team, which included the mission support crew from Pilgrim Bandits Charity travelled over 250miles in -40° temperatures. As the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea.
Spitsbergen covers an area of 39,044 km2 (15,075 sq. mi), making it the largest island in Norway. Originally used for whaling in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognised Norwegian sovereignty and established Svalbard as both a free economic and a demilitarised zone. The island has an arctic climate and is a breeding ground for many seabirds and marine mammals as well as feeding grounds for polar bear.
A spokesman for Pilgrim Bandits said, “The idea of the expedition was to work in an extreme setting and to share the beauty of that environment. The sighting of a polar bear in our camp and seeing the Northern Lights added to the overall success of the expedition. The guys are now among only 3% of the population that visit Svalbard to actually see a wild polar bear”.
Those injured that took part included; Steve Shine, Jake Bartlett, Karl Boon, Craig Howorth all single leg amputees. Charity Patron Ben Parkinson MBE who is a double leg amputee, along with injured veteran Richard Wilkinson and serving Police Officer Damien Malone.
Speaking for the injured Sgt Richard Wilkinson of the King’s Royal Hussars (KRH) said, “The whole adventure was something that can’t be described. This was a once in a lifetime experienced topped off with a great bunch of men to share it with. Thanks to everyone involved for making it possible.”