A FORMER soldier is switching combats for dancing shoes as he prepares to take a whirl to raise money in memory of his mother.

Mark Appleby, from Sacriston, near Durham, is one of around 40 people who have signed up to take part in the Ultra Ballroom event in aid of Cancer Research.

Despite never having danced before, Mr Appleby decided to sign up to raise money for the charity following the death of his mother in January.

He said: "I lost my mother in January and it was a pretty horrible time so I wanted to do something positive for cancer research.

"Most of the people taking part have lost someone or have been affected by cancer in some shape of form."

The 46-year-old, who served with the Royal Signals for 17 years before leaving the army in 2007, was inspired by his parents love of ballroom dancing to try something different.

But due to injuries to his back and legs, sustained during his time in the army, he is finding some of the training difficult.

He said: "I had a horrific accident and was smashed about pretty badly.

"Getting in front of people and dancing is pretty tough but I'm in pain every day no matter what I do so it's just a case of blocking it out and heavy painkillers."

He added: "I've never done anything like dancing before. I was a senior instructor in the army and used to teach in front of thousands of people but I knew my subject matter.

"Getting up and dancing in front of more than 1,000 people is definitely going to be more of a challenge than anything I've done before.

"The atmosphere is great and positive though and everyone just wants to raise as much as they can."

The inexperienced dancers are learning to waltz and to jive under the watchful eye of instructor Anne Thompson, from Zazz dance school in Houghton-le-Spring.

They are taking weekly lessons ahead of a finale performance in front of around 1,000 people at Rainton Meadows, near Houghton-le-Spring on October 14.

Collectively the group has so far raised around £4,000.

To sponsor Mr Appleby visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/durham-ultraballroom-dancing