John Foster holds a flag featuring a picture of his son, Robbie, who was killed in Afghanistan

John Foster holds a flag featuring a picture of his son, Robbie, who was killed in Afghanistan

Thousands of people donned biking gear to pay tribute to those killed in the line of duty.

The annual Ride to the Wall event attracted people on motorbikes from across the UK all keen to take part in a special remembrance service to honour those who have died while serving their country since 1945.

About 1,000 poeple gathered in the car park next to Drayton Manor Club Site before travelling in convoy to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, where they were joined by a further 19,000 bikers.

Among those taking part in the October event was John Foster, whose son, Robbie, was killed in August 2007 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where he was serving as a Private with the Ist Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.

"Robbie was 18 and on his first tour of duty when he was killed alongside his comrades John Thrumble, 21, and 19-year-old Aaron McClure," said John, a retired firefighter from Harlow, Essex.

"Everyone nowadays knows of a fallen soldier and days like this make you aware how much support there is for our boys in the Forces.

"I've camped in the past with a folding camper but a friend lent me his motorhome after we lost Robbie and I loved it.

"I ended up buying my own and tow the bike behind it sometimes. I'm a marshal at the Ride to the Wall and this year stayed at the Drayton Manor Club Site in my motorhome.

"It's an amazing thing to be part of; everyone who goes along has their own reason for doing so, whether they've lost someone or they want to show they care."

Martin Dickinson, a founder of the Ride to the Wall who organised this year's event, said he was "overwhelmed" at the number of people who took part.

He said the idea began six years ago when he and some other members of the Harley Owners' Group decided to organise a bike ride to the Arboretum.

"We expected around 20 people but hundreds turned up - since then it's just grown and grown," he said.

"This year at the service we had a Spitfire fly past and the Military Wives were singing, it was fantastic.

"It's become so big we have to restrict the number setting off from Drayton Manor to Alrewas to 1,000 bikes.

"Some people arrive the night before and camp in tents, caravans or motorhomes at the Club site and others come along on the day.

"We ask all the bikers for a voluntary £10 donation and all the money raised goes directly to the National Memorial Arboreturn so they can carry on their great work.

"Last year's event raised £70,000 and we're expecting to hand over a similar amount this time. It's been a great success."

Visit for more information about Ride to the Wall.