Army veteran launches this year’s Cateran Yomp

AN ARMY veteran, who was forced to give up military life due to injury, is pledging to plough “every penny” back into the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) by embarking on the Cateran Yomp, one of Scotland’s toughest endurance challenges.

Royal Artillery veteran Lee Harris-Hamer, 31, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, is the new ambassador for the yomp, which challenges teams of soldiers, veterans, and civilians to walk 22, 36, or 54 miles across the rugged terrain of the Perthshire countryside in less than 24 hours.

The event raises funds for the organisation, which is now known as “ABF The Soldiers’ Charity”.

Participants will head off on the Cateran Trail in the foothills of the Cairngorms at 6am on Saturday 3 June, returning to Blairgowrie in the early hours of Sunday 4 June.

Last year’s event raised more than £500,000 for soldiers, veterans, and their families, with 630 participants travelling from as far as the Australia, Canada, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United States.

“Being discharged from the army was absolutely devastating,” explained Harris-Hamer.

“I was injured, unemployed, lost my family home, and – because I signed up at 17 – had no qualifications or job history to speak of.

“I was lost and couldn’t see a future, so my mental health took a massive blow.

“However, with the help of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, my life began to change.

“It wasn’t just down to the funding though; it’s the lifelong support they provide.

“The charity has allowed me to move on and carve out a future.”

Harris-Hamer joined the Royal Artillery in 2008 at the age of 17.

Deployed to Afghanistan twice, he served a total of eight years, rising to the rank of lance bombardier.

However, at the age of 24, a back injury dramatically ended his army career.

Deciding to use the skills he had developed in the army to start his own business, the grant allowed Harris-Hamer to fund training and purchase specialist cleaning equipment.

Seven years on, Lee employs 50 staff through White Horse Cleaning Services in North Yorkshire.

“When I received the grant, I vowed to pay back every penny, whether in money or time and that’s what’s driving me as the ambassador and a participant in this year’s Cateran Yomp,” he added.

“Adversity hits you head-on but, in many ways, it’s an amazing thing.

“My experience has taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience and adapting; but I’ve also seen, first-hand, what can happen when someone gives you an opportunity and picks you up when you’re at rock bottom.

“ABF The Soldiers’ Charity sparked a wider ripple effect for me too – I’m now creating employment for around 50 people, giving local people opportunities to sustain themselves and their families, to upskill and strive for a better life.”

Harris-Hamer was joined at the launch event at Edinburgh Castle by Paul Carney – the army sergeant major or most-senior soldier in the army – and Charles Dunphie, Scotland director at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

Read more stories on Scottish Field’s outdoors pages.

Plus, don’t miss the Munro Mk1 electric 4×4 in the February issue of Scottish Field magazine.

Lee Harris-Hamer, Charles Dunphie, and Warrant Officer Class One Paul Carney