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Feature: Senior British politician takes 1000-mile walk to mark WWI centenary


LONDON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Britain's upper house deputy speaker Michael Bates on Tuesday formally started his 1,000-mile walk from London to Berlin to commemorate the First World War centenary and raise funds to help child victims of modern-day wars and conflicts.

Bates, 53, is a conservative peer of Britain's House of Lords. He will be using his summer recess to walk the 1,000 miles between British and German capitals to fulfill his dual mission of remembrance and charity.

"The first goal is that we remember the suffering a hundred years ago around Europe and in the places that I am walking through," Bates, who was awarded a life peerage in 2008, told Xinhua.

He added: "The second purpose is to raise funds for a charity that's helping children who are victims of war today in the Middle East and Africa."

The inspiration for his walk, themed "Walk for Peace", was a speech the German chancellor Angela Merkel delivered to the British Parliament during her visit to London in February.

"If you look at the history of the conflict a hundred years ago, then it was principally between Britain and Germany," he noted.

"But the fact that we are partners in Europe, we are reconciled, we are friends in politics and in all walks of life, and the fact that friendship endures, are something that I want to represent in my walk--a walk of friendship and peace," he said.

Supported by his wife Xuelin, a British Chinese community leader, the peer decided to raise funds for the German charity Friedensdorf, literally meaning "Peace Village", following the couple's visit to the charity at Oberhausen city in western Germany, where it cares for hundreds of children from war-torn countries at any one time.

Before they set out on Tuesday morning, the couple joined a formal send-off ceremony from London's City Hall by friends and family, and paused for a while at the Poppies in the Moat at the Tower of London, which is a major part of London's WWI centenary commemorations.

This is the third walk which Bates has undertaken with the support of his wife. Last year he walked 518.8 miles from London to Derry, raising 54,000 pounds for Save the Children’s work in Syria.

Between 2011 and 2012, the senior British politician walked from Olympia of Greece to London, covering 2916.1 miles, to raise awareness for the UN-proposed Olympic truce.

The couple said all costs associated with the walk will be met fully by themselves "so that every penny raised will go to the work of Friendensdorf."

Bates will update regular photos and twitter feeds to verify his progress, and chronicle his walk in his blogs.

He has carried with him a personal letter of goodwill from Lord Speaker of the British House of Lords Baroness D'Souza to President of the German Bundestag Norbert Lammert, which he will present on arrival in Berlin.

The peer has planned to be arriving in Portsmouth on Friday before catching a ferry crossing to Caen in northwestern France on Saturday.

En route to Berlin, he is also expected to attend a vigil at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Cemetery in France in mid-August and visit the CWGC Memorial Arras where his Great Grandfather Private George Hutton Walton, who was killed in 1917 during WWI, is commemorated.