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Duchess backs troops on Paris trip

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The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with riders taking part in the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with riders taking part in the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride

PA

The Duchess of Cornwall posed with riders ahead of their departure from Paris

The Duchess of Cornwall posed with riders ahead of their departure from Paris

PA

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks to Captain Nick Beighton from Shrewsbury, who lost his legs when an IED exploded in Afghanistan

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks to Captain Nick Beighton from Shrewsbury, who lost his legs when an IED exploded in Afghanistan

PA

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The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with riders taking part in the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride

The Duchess of Cornwall offered her support to Britain's armed forces when she arrived for the start of a Help for Heroes Paris to London charity bike ride.

Camilla posed for photographs with the 300-strong fundraisers as they left the French capital, on the second and final day of her first solo overseas engagement as a member of the Royal Family.

The group included wounded British, US and Canadian servicemen and women and war veterans who are cycling more than 350 miles through the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars as part of the annual Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride - the charity's inaugural event was held in 2008.

She wished the cyclists good luck as they set off from Les Invalides, a military hospital built by Louis XIV in the 1670s for wounded French troops, and which is where Napoleon is buried.

Her show of support came as the charity announced it was refunding donations raised by EDL leader Tommy Robinson, who started fundraising following the brutal death of a soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby, in Woolwich last week.

Help for Heroes co-founder Bryn Parry said: "There has been an extraordinary public reaction to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. For many, that desire to show support has been focused on doing good to counter the bad. Help for Heroes has been the unexpected focus of this national outpouring of support."

Veteran Matthew Lum, 40, from the Isle of Wight, who was among those to begin the charity event in Paris, said the cycle would have "a lot of poignancy" in the wake of Drummer Rigby's death. He said: "It will definitely spur a lot of us on when we hit London and will hopefully bring out more supporters."

Captain Nick Beighton, 31, Shrewsbury, a member of the London 2012 Paralympic rowing team who lost both legs in Afghanistan in 2009, said: "We've got to be careful not to get overawed by other events and focus on the charity, this event has been planned for a long time."

Among the riders were the former editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, and her husband Charlie - who are currently on police bail, and Jeremy Clarkson's wife Francie, a founding member of the charity. Mrs Brooks appeared in high spirits, taking pictures of her husband greeting the Duchess. She said: "Having sat in the office and watched it all, we thought it was about time we did it ourselves."

Camilla, who was wearing an Anna Valentine wool and crepe pistachio coat and dress with a vintage raffia handbag emblazoned with a loveheart motif and the word Paris, asked some of the cyclists: "Are you all ready to go?" and "How are you enjoying the atmosphere? All the very best, I hope it all goes well."

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