Two military historians, an actor, and a former Welsh Guard are set to navigate their way from Ardrossan to Oban to raise funds for charity.

The group will cover 63 nautical miles around Scotland's south-west coast in a pair of Klepper canoes to raise cash for the armed forces charity SSAFA.

If canoeing around the south-west coast of Scotland – even in mid-autumn – sounds like a bit of a lark, it is not.

The route – based on part of the Second World War training for the Special Boat Section (the forerunner of the Special Boat Service) – covers plenty of strong currents and treacherous tides.

And when you factor in the odds of them experiencing bad weather - a more than distinct possibility at this time of year - there's a fair chance the distance, the equivalent of around 73 miles on land, will feel considerably longer.

One of the historians is Professor Saul David, known for, among other best-selling works, SBS: Silent Warriors – The Authorised Wartime History, and Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The team prepare for the epic journey

Fellow historian James Holland has Brothers in Arms: One Legendary Tank Regiment's Bloody War from D-Day to VE-Day and The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943 in his extensive canon.

Both Saul and James are also seasoned broadcasters with a string - too long to include here - of documentaries to their credits.

Ben Willbond has acted in everything from Horrible Histories to Bridget Jones’s Baby to Rev. to The Thick of It to Ghosts.

His father, Group Captain Tim Willbond, worked tirelessly for military charities, including SSAFA, after leaving the RAF 23 years ago, and this in part is why the charity was chosen.

The fourth member of the team is Rob Gallimore, a former officer in the Welsh Guards who served for 17 years, which included four tours of Afghanistan and who is now a history teacher

If Ben’s family relationship is partly the inspiration for choosing SSAFA to be the recipient of funds raised – the target is £5,000, but the intrepid quartet is aiming to smash that – then Saul’s SBS book inspired this particular adventure.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The team prepare for the epic journey

The folding Klepper canoes are similar in design to those used by Royal Marine Commandos on raids such as Operation Frankton in 1942, immortalised as 'The Cockleshell Heroes', and many others.

Saul said: “The WW2 SBS guys did it in two days and went further. We’re taking three days minimum, but then again, most of them were supremely fit blokes in their 20s.

“We, to a man, are past our prime, and I think it’s fair to say it’s going to be a hell of a challenge.

“In fact, I mentioned the paddle to a recent CO of the SBS and he said that the original training run we’re reproducing was harder than anything they did for SF Selection.

"We sincerely hope not!”

SSAFA is the UK’s oldest tri-service charity. Since 1885, it has helped serving and retired Armed Forces’ personnel, and their families.

To support Saul, James, Ben, and Rob on their SBS paddle to keep this life-changing and often life-saving work going, visit

For more information, visit