Hundreds gather to remember Lee Rigby, Scott Hetherington and the Manchester 22 with annual memorial ride and truck naming

Date published: 12 July 2021

Over 400 people attended the Lee Rigby Memorial Ride 2021 Approximately 400 riders plus dignitaries came together on Sunday (11 July) to remember Middleton soldiers Lee Rigby and Scott Hetherington, and the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bombing. A change from the usual Rochdale Town Hall starting point, which is closed for renovations, participants assembled at Rochdale Sports Club for the memorial ride at 9am ready for the convoy to depart at 11am.

Before their journey began, a memorial service was hosted by Revd Gavin Vitler, and a truck naming in memory of Fusilier Lee Rigby was held at the Sports Club. The naming ceremony - which saw a Veterans into Logistics HGV Class 1 training vehicle named in memory of the fallen soldier - was attended by Rigby's family, the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor and Mayoress of Rochdale Councillor Aasim and Rifit Rashid, and Chris Clarkson MP, along with Scott Hetherington's family, and family members of Olivia Campbell-Hardy who died in the Manchester Arena bombing. The training vehicle will be used to train unemployed ex-military personnel into becoming HGV drivers and into new careers.

Hundreds gather to remember Lee Rigby, Scott Hetherington and the Manchester 22 with annual memorial ride and truck namingRevd Gavin Vitler hosts a memorial service before the annual ride begins. (Pictured L-R) Mayoress of Rochdale Rifit Rashid, Mayor of Rochdale Councillor Aasim Rashid, Major Ian Battersby, Revd Gavin Vitler, Lyn and Amy Rigby, Darren Wright from Veterans Into Logistics and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.

At 11am, riders took the annual journey through Heywood to Middleton and Limefield Park, stopping to pay their respects with a minutes' silence at the Lee Rigby memorial at Middleton Memorial Gardens.

The convoy then headed to the Manchester Arena bombing memorial in Victoria Station, where another minutes' silence was held. Hundreds of participants joined the learner friendly route on their motorcycles, scooters and even some quad bikes to pay their respects.

The riders set off from Rochdale Sports Club. Video courtesy Gavin Vitler

Started just one week after the tragic death of Fusilier Lee Rigby by Gavin Vitler in 2013, the memorial ride was first organised to honour the memory of 25-year-old Rigby after he was brutally murdered while off duty outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, south London on 22 May 2013.

His killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were sentenced to life in prison in December 2013 after they were found guilty of his murder. The Manchester Arena bombing took place on the fourth anniversary of Fusilier Rigby's death, 22 May 2017, killing 22 innocent people at Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande concert. Almost 1,000 members of the public were injured in the terrorist attack.

Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington, 22, of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, died on 2 January 2017 after a tragic accident in the town of Taji, north west of Baghdad, Iraq. The Middleton soldier was buried with full military honours at Boarshaw Cemetery. Gavin said: "After the first event, I decided that this must be an annual event to remember a fellow Middleton lad. Working with an amazing team of volunteers, we then added a memorial service for Scott Hetherington, another Middleton soldier, and more recently the memorial for the victims of the Manchester bombing.

"We do this to remember the loved ones and no matter what happens the people will come together in shared grief and support for the families. "After the last 18 months with Covid-19 we have been unable to do any memorials, and the foundation [Lee Rigby Foundation] has been unable to do any fundraising, but Lyn Rigby and the team have continued to support troops by sending shoe boxes filled with goodies and handing out food parcels to those in need."

Hundreds gather to remember Lee Rigby, Scott Hetherington and the Manchester 22 with annual memorial ride and truck namingGavin Vitler who first organised the memorial ride eight years ago with Lyn Rigby

Initial organiser Gavin handed over the management of the annual event to 'good friend' Gareth Pollitt due to ill health. Gavin continued: "I know the events are in safe hands with him and he will continue what I have started.

"Gareth attended the memorial rides with his brother from the start, but tragically in 2015 while riding home from the memorial ride Gareth's brother Mark Pollitt lost his life in a road traffic accident. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gareth and all the volunteers for all their hard work and thanks to everybody who attends because without them it would not be the success it is today after eight years." The memorial ride on Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of Fusilier Lee Rigby's death, and the fourth anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing.

Money raised from the ride will go towards the Lee Rigby Foundation (reg charity no 1166794) which provides a support network for military families.