Second World War veteran prepared to take on Run Wigan Festival

Veteran WW2 submariner Harry Melling with nephew Matthew Melling, right
Veteran WW2 submariner Harry Melling with nephew Matthew Melling, right

Britain’s oldest submariner will be joining hundreds of other people pounding the borough’s streets at the Run Wigan Festival this weekend.


Harry Melling, 98, will take in some of the half marathon course from his wheelchair as he is pushed by his great-nephew Matthew.

Read more: War veteran shocked but defiant after robbery

The pair had originally wanted to do the entire 13.1 miles of the event on Sunday but sadly doctors stepped in and advised it was not a good idea.

Matthew, who is running the entire half marathon, says he is not quite sure how the logistics of the event will work but he will definitely push Harry across the finish line and is looking forward to the rapturous Wigan welcome he is sure they will receive from the watching crowds.

There is also a serious point as they are raising money for We Remember Submariners, which has provided a lot of support to Harry since he was callously robbed in his Newtown home back in 2017.

Matthew, 35, said: “We’ve been thinking about doing this together for about six months. My uncle Harry really wants to give back to the charity for the support he has received. He’s very excited about it.

“The doctors advice is for him not to go too far. We will see on the day how he feels and decide how much we will do together.

“We’re not entirely sure yet how or where I’m going to meet him but I’m definitely going to go through the finish line with him.

“That is going to be emotional. I’ve gone through it a lot in my head. It’s going to be a great moment for us both.”

We Remember Submariners helps anyone who has previously served on the front line beneath the waves.

Since he was attacked at his house Harry has attended many of the gala dinners for submariners as well as the annual remembrance service for them in London.

A leading submariner suggested the charity to Matthew and Harry when they said they wanted to fund-raise as it was a small part of the Royal Navy’s operations and did not get as many donations as some bigger and better-known organisations.

It is just one of the many charities that will benefit from the fund-raising efforts of runners and walkers taking part in Sunday’s event.

Run Wigan Festival is organised by Joining Jack and the races will be started by 11-year-old Jack Johnson, whose parents Andy and Alex Johnson set up the charity after he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The third annual event sees the return of the popular half marathon, 5k and family well, along with the addition of a 10-mile race for the first time.

Places for the 10-miler have sold out, but registration for the half marathon, 5k and family mile remain open until midnight today.

There will be entries on the day for the family mile only.

Organisers of the third annual Run Wigan Festival are continuing to check the weather forecast, after last year’s event was hit by snow and ice.

Participants are expected to gather in Wigan town centre on Sunday morning, ready for the half marathon and 10-mile races to start at 9.30am.

They will be followed by the 5k at 10.15am and family mile at 1pm.

Finishers will all receive a medal and everyone who completes the half marathon, 10-miler or 5k can claim a pie too.

Afterwards, there will be live music as bands and singers take to a stage on Market Place.

Runners and spectators can also browse a European food market being held in the town centre.

To find out more or sign up, go to runwiganfestivals.co.uk