Six-year-old fundraiser Jacob steps into history in Battle of Britain Challenge

On the 30 and 31 October, plane-mad Jacob Newson and his dad Andy walked 30 miles to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity. Their route began at the former site of RAF Manston in Kent and finished at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne near Folkstone.

The pair, who to date have raised around £30,000 for the Fund, had originally planned to walk 25km from a Second World War crash site in Belgium to Dunkirk in May, but this has been delayed to 2021 due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The father and son duo, who live in Leeds, climbed Pen-y-Ghent in Yorkshire last year, raising £6,500 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.They were inspired to fundraise after the Red Arrows surprised Jacob at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2019. Andy posted a tweet asking any pilots and officers in uniform to return Jacob’s salute, and the tweet quickly went viral coming to the attention of the RAF’s aerobatic display team who pulled off the ultimate surprise.

Ahead of the challenge, Andy said:

“I’ve been going to France every year since 2003 for the anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuations so it was a great shame not to be there this year. That said, I’m a frontline clinician with the ambulance service, so in the grand scheme of things there were far more important things going on at the time.

“I wasn’t going to admit defeat on this year’s fundraising challenge, so I’m really pleased we’ve been able to come up with a new plan. We’ll be finishing on the 31October, the 80th anniversary of the official end date of the Battle of Britain, which also happens to be Jacob’s 7th birthday, so I think it’s going to be really special.”

Andy previously served with the Army in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. Andy’s father – Jacob’s grandfather – was an officer in the Merchant Navy while Andy’s grandfather – Jacob’s great grandfather – fought in the First World War with the Army. Since his 2019 fundraiser, Jacob has been invited to various RAF stations and military museums across the country and has met Spitfire ace Allan Scott DFM and the last Dambuster Johnny Johnson.

Aaron Tillyer, Regional Fundraiser at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:

“Jacob did a fantastic job fundraising for us last year, so we’re thrilled that he and Andy have managed to make this year’s challenge work in spite of all the obstacles they’ve faced.

“We are committed to supporting the whole of the RAF Family whenever they may need us, and Jacob and Andy’s efforts will help us continue to do so for years to come.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, free memberships for Headspace, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

Over the course of 2020, the RAF Benevolent Fund has launched a range of welfare initiatives to support personnel and their families throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It has introduced a 24-hour emotional support helpline and created an online mental wellbeing zone, as well as offering Headspace memberships to partners of serving personnel. The Fund has also offered a grant of £2,500 to each RAF station to provide an activity and wellbeing pack for RAF children and launched Airplay Connect, an online version of its youth support service.

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