A west London firefighter has pulled together a historic march to commemorate the centenary of a First World War battle in which his grandfather fought.

Twickenham firefighter Mark Hastings has dedicated the last seven years to organising a walk in memory of the 180,000 people who died in the battle of Passchendaele.

He has had to gain permission for 500 people to walk between Poperinge to Passchendaele in Belgium over two days in November, which will end with a church service to remember fallen soldiers.

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Mr Hastings, a mechanic who served in the British Army for 10 years before joining the London Fire Brigade, has launched a website to allow people to join the 100th anniversary march.

And after losing his grandfather, Lieutenant Kenneth Herbert Thompson, at the young age of nine, Mr Hastings promised never "to let him down".

Mark Hastings has spent several years organising an historic march to honour WW1 heroes

"My grandfather died in October 1973 when I was nine and I had a very special bond with him," said Mr Hastings.

"His death still upsets me today and I remember making a promise to him that whatever I did in my life I would not let him down. After researching the war, I realised how lucky I was to be alive."

'Capture the wish of veterans'

Nearly 300 London firefighters were called into the Armed Forces in 1914, with more than half of these personnel returning to their units in the Royal Navy.

Firefighters Joseph Knowles and Arthur Shearing have their names on the Menin Gate War Memorial to the missing in Ypres, Belgium.

In honouring the memory of the veterans, Mr Hastings, added: "The Ypres Salient of which Passchendaele was part was a ghastly place.

"Your comrades and enemies could be killed in any number of ways and just sink into the mud in front of you.

"The ones that didn't sink in the mud just rotted because it was too dangerous to pick them up and bury them.

"When they were finally buried, notes were taken of where they were and passed down the chain of command so that in time the remains could be recovered and given a proper burial.

"Two things usually happened, either the notes were lost (with or without the carrier) or a shell landed on the grave and the remains disappeared.

"The whole aim of the event is to capture the wish of veterans the world over to express in the strongest possible terms imaginable that we will always remember you and honour your memory."

'Sacrifice'

For the first time, a national memorial day to mark the sacrifice made by all firefighters in the line of duty, was held on May 4.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: "The level of dedication Mark has put in to securing this momentous event is a credit to him, his grandfather and all who served during the Great War.

"As we mark Firefighters Memorial Day, it is a chance for everyone to remember the sacrifice members of the fire service have given to protect life and property.

"I wish Mark every success and would encourage people to get involved in this once in a life time opportunity."

For the two-day walk, two camp sites have been organised and there is plenty of accommodation available for those who wish to stay in the local area.

People can register to join between now and the end of August. Fee is £45 which will help pay to run the event. The march will take place over two days on November 5 and November 6.

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