An ex-TV presenter is setting off on an epic ride in honour of those who lost their lives in a World War Two battle in Italy.

Mike Leahy, who is now living in Steventon, the village he grew up in, will ride a 75-year-old WWII dispatch riders’ BSA WM20 motorbike to the 75th anniversary of the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.

He wants to commemorate those from all sides – soldiers and civilians – who were among the battle's 75,000 casualties.

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Mr Leahy, who is known for his wildlife series Bite Me on the National Geographic Channel, also has a personal connection with the offensive as his grandfather served with the Royal Army Support Corps at Monte Cassino, spending much time escorting ambulance convoys with his recovery truck.

Herald Series:

Mr Leahy with his riding companion Dick Whitehouse.

He said: “It was the battle of Monte Cassino that he always remembered and spoke about the most. What he saw is said to have changed his life because of the terrible things he experienced. He spoke about Monte Cassino a lot and had an affinity for the Italians.

“As the 75th anniversary of many WWII events approaches I wanted to see the place for myself.”

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The battle for Monte Cassino took place on the slopes of a mountain leading to a Benedictine monastery on the defensive ‘Winter Line’ in central Italy, around 100 miles south of Rome and 70 miles north of Naples.

He will also be raising money for the Royal British Legion as it has been a family tradition collecting for the poppy appeal for over 60 years.

So far, he has managed to raise around £1,000 through two Just Giving Pages as well as fund in a collection pot.

Herald Series:

The 52-year-old who is also a stunt man, virologist and mechanic, said: “Raising money for charity was not the motivation for this adventure, however it would be wrong not to use the exposure gained from the trip to benefit others.”

He will set off for Dunkirk on May 8 with his friend Dick Whitehouse, and then travel to Italy where he will lay a wreath at the commemoration ceremony on behalf of the Royal British Legion on May 16.

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With luck, the old WM20 will return to the white cliffs of Dover by May 27.

The duo will have to ride through the Alps and cover around 3,000 miles.

Mr Leahy's bike weighs more than a hefty 400lbs, has a top speed of 50mph and has little suspension. He will therefore have to ride at ‘frustratingly’ low speeds, but he is nonetheless ready for the challenge.

He said: “I’m feeling very excited as the adventure approaches, but also a deep sense of trepidation. I’m a trained mechanic but taking a bike this old on such a long trip is a real challenge."