A HELICOPTER engineer is swapping his whirlybird for something smaller to embark on a First World War commemoration pilgrimage.

Avionics engineer Sergeant Paul Whitelegge is setting off on the 250-mile Ride to the Somme cycle on Thursday.

The 38-year-old, who lives at RAF Benson with his wife, will join dozens of others on the four-day ride across some First World War battlefields in Belgium and northern France.

The ride, raising money for forces charity SSAFA, has been organised to commemorate soldiers who fought and fell along the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme.

Sgt Whitelegge said he decided to take part in the ride and raise money for SSAFA, having served in the RAF for 15 years as a helicopter engineer.

During his time in the RAF he has been deployed on several occasions to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and said he had witnessed firsthand the vital services which SSAFA provides for the military community.

The UK’s oldest national tri-service charity who was called by the government at the outbreak of the First World War to take care of the families of the Armed Forces going to the front.

See uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulWhitelegge