Ex-Royal Marines kayak 650 miles to mark 40 years since the Falklands War

To mark 40 years since the start of the Falklands War on April 2, two former Royal Marines Mick Dawson (left) and Steve Sparkes (right), who both served in the conflict, began a 650 mile kayak down the length of the country, between Spean Bridge, home of the Commando Memorial, and Southsea, Hampshire.

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Two Royal Marine veterans who took part in a record-breaking row of the Pacific are taking to the water once again, this time to mark 40 years since the Falklands War.

On April 2, Mick Dawson, 57, and Steve Sparkes, 60, left the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge near Fort William and began a 650-mile kayak down the length of the country, planning to arrive at the Yomper Statue in Southsea on June 14.

These dates are important in the history of the Falkland Islands, as they are the dates the conflict began and ended, 40 years ago.

As Royal Marine veterans, Mick and Steve saw active service during the Falklands War; Mick in Air Defence Troop Royal Marines and Steve in K Company 42 Commando.

Mick is one of the world’s most experienced ocean rowers, having twice rowed the Atlantic and completing a record-breaking 7,000-mile row across the Pacific. Steve is registered blind and earlier this year was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for being the first blind person to row the Pacific.

‘Any time I can spend with ‘Sparky’ is time well spent. He is an absolute inspiration,’ said Mick.

Mick Dawson, from Boston, Lincolnshire, and Steve Sparkes, from Devon, who is registered blind, started their 650-mile kayak from Spean Bridge on April 2 and will complete it on June 14, the exact dates the Falklands War began and ended 40 years ago.

The first leg down the rivers Spean and Lochy and Loch Linnhe was ‘bliss’ and ‘mill pond’ calm, Mick said, until they were ‘headed by the wind’ five miles north of Oban, which made for a ‘tough’ but ‘more exciting finish’.

‘It reminded us who was in charge,’ he said: ‘It was never going to be straightforward on the west coast in April.’

After setting off again from Oban Sailing Club today (April 7), where they were staying, the two veterans will continue paddling south with the tide through the Atlantic Bridge, hugging Seil and Luing, ‘so we do not go down any of your whirlpools’.

Mick’s project, the Cockleshell Endeavour, which supports veterans to compete in water-based sports, has been capturing the emotional stories of some of the people most affected by the Falklands War. The interviews will be shared on its website and social media.

While here, the two men will meet the family of Royal Marine Gordon MacPherson from Oban, who was killed during the battle for Two Sisters in 1982.

Mick and Steve are using this endeavour to raise money for The Royal Marine’s Charity. To donate, visit the Cockleshell Endeavour Facebook page or www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cockleshell-endeavour-falklands