WHEN David Whithorn took part in a sleep-out in aid of homeless ex-service personnel he went one step further - using original First World War kit to create a camping experience paying tribute to the Bradford Pals.

Mr Whithorn, president of Bus to Bradford - a group of City fans who commemorate former players who served in the 1914-18 war - took part in this month's 'Great Tommy Sleep Out' organised by the Royal British Legion Industries to raise funds for homeless veterans during the pandemic. There are, says the RBLI, around 6,000 former servicemen and women sleeping rough in the UK. More than 2,300 people signed up and the funds will go to the charity's services providing a home, welfare and employment support to military veterans.

Mr Whithorn said: "I decided to undertake the challenge with an emphasis on the ‘Tommy’ aspect - especially as this year is the centenary of the formation of the British Legion, to look after soldiers returning from the Great War. My ‘sleeping out kit’ was slightly different from others, reflecting my lifetime's interest in the Great War in memory of family members who served as well as the Bradford veterans I have met.

"I used an original 1944 Army tent, but the rest was original WW1 sleeping kit - a canvas ‘Wolseley valise’ palliasse, wool blanket and a greatcoat. My pillow was a kit-bag and I wore woollen ‘combinations’; service pyjamas, socks, jumper and balaclava. All this was set up in my back garden, with an original trench candle lamp in the tent and an original two gallon petrol-tin I made into a trench direction sign. To sleep out like this, with wartime bed and tent, is as near as anyone can get to being one of the Bradford Pals officers newly arriving in France in the spring of 1916. The cold and rain kept me awake but I thought of those Bradford soldiers who had to do this for real."

Mr Whithorn camped for 12 nights in the WW1 kit then several more nights in a 1980s Army basha set-up and is ending the month in an Army 9x9 tent and WW1 Army hospital bed. 

He said: "I have sold poppies for the RBL for 20 years. Two years ago two ex-servicemen came up to my stall. It was evident they were living rough and, from the bagged bottles in their pockets, that they had other problems too. They both straightened up and went through their pockets to gather every bit of money they had between them, and placed in my tin saying, ‘It isn’t right we're living like this, but there are those worse off than us.’ Their hands were cold and shaking as I pinned poppies to their jackets. I will never forget those men. To date I have raised £1,040 from the sleep-out for the RBL to help their comrades."

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