A SOLDIER who was awarded the highest military honour for bravery has helped inspire a group of youngsters preparing for a charity cycle ride.

Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC visited two schools in Darlington yesterday.

A group of 16 students from Hummersknott Academy will ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise funds for Help for Heroes and St Teresa’s Hospice, which is based in Darlington.

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L Cpl Beharry was awarded the military’s highest decoration “for valour in the face of the enemy” after twice braving machine gun and rocketpropelled- grenade fire to save the lives of dozens of colleagues while on tours of duty in 2004.

He was invited to meet the students, aged 13 to 16, who will set out on their two-week cycle challenge, on July 21. The students are in training for their ride with help from the Army, which will also provide barracks accommodation along the cycle route.

L Cpl Beharry also gave a talk to students at Darlington School of Mathematics and Science.

He said: “It is important for me to connect with schools so that pupils can understand that nothing is impossible.

“I also want them to realise the under-privileged background I came from.

As a young boy, we had no electricity or water and very little food. But I turned my life around to go on and serve in the Army and achieve the Victoria Cross.

“I suffered a lot of injuries in doing so, but I can honestly say today I have an amazing life and it is a blessing to be here talking to students about what they can achieve if they really want to.”