A serving Royal Marines Officer from Winchester is about to embark on one of the greatest charity cycle rides of his lifetime following a near-fatal accident last summer.

On 29 June Major Paul Spanner RM will conduct ‘The Towers Challenge’, a road cycling challenge that will see a team of 20 enthusiasts ride from London’s Tower Bridge to the Eiffel Tower in Paris (via Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth) in just 42 hours.

In taking on the three towers ride Paul and his peloton will attempt to raise £100,000 for the charities that he says helped save his life and support his family during his ongoing recovery. These charities include: The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, Love Your Hospital Charity (Western Sussex Hospitals), Southampton Hospital Charity, and the British Heart Foundation.

Paul’s story

On July 2, 2013, Paul, aged 47, and his brother Ian, a serving Royal Navy submariner were out on a routine training ride ahead of a charity cycle event. As weather conditions rapidly deteriorated Paul, a former elite-level cyclist, lost control of his bike, colliding with a brick pillar at a speed of 33mph.

The initial diagnosis was severe: “Spinal injury was more than likely,” Paul says. Thanks to the quick actions of his brother however, help was soon on hand from the region’s local emergency services.

“Chichester Hospital stabilised me while Southampton General did the spinal and neurosurgery diagnostics remotely over the intranet,” he explains. “Once stable enough I was moved to allow Southampton to carry out the surgery. Without the can do attitude of the staff at such a critical juncture I could have easily been left paralysed.”


Photo: Paul's condition in hospital immediately following the accident

Since the summer Paul has been attending Headley Court, The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, where he has received first-class physical and mental care for the injuries he sustained during the accident. 

Our relationship with Paul

Paul accessed a number of naval welfare and rehabilitation services closely affiliated with the work and goals of the RNRMC, during his period of recovery – some immediately following the accident.

These services included receiving a ‘Troop Aid Bag’ through Royal Navy and Royal Marines Welfare service, containing essential items like toothbrushes and towels to make his stay in the accident and emergency centre more comfortable. The Welfare service also was there to support his wife Laura, during her wait near his bedside.


Photo: Paul and The Towers Challenge team launching his charity bid at Goodwood House, with Lady March, Monday 28 April 2014

After the immediate danger had passed, Paul enjoyed active engagement and participation with events run by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Cycling Association (RNRMCA), after he was introduced to the group by a colleague.

Paul continues to use rehabilitation services provided by Headley Court, which serves injured members of all the British Armed Forces.

Hilary Jukes, Fundraising Coordinator for the charity, says: “Paul’s recovery has been miraculous.  To think less than a year ago his future was far from certain, yet here he is now tackling this amazing charity cycling challenge.  We wish all the team the very best and thank all those supporting their efforts.”

Support The Towers Challenge

You can show your support for The Towers Challenge by donating to their Virgin Money Giving page, and you can keep up to date with the latest of the challenge via the team's Facebook Page and Towers Challenge website.