Veterans depart Edinburgh for Iceland volcano challenge

24th July 2015 Fraser Bedwell

Operation Ragnarok will see Matthew (Matt) McHugh, formerly Royal Navy, and ex-soldier Rhys Rowlands spend August driving to the summits of as many volcanoes as possible in a Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck named Louis. The pair were waved off as they departed from Edinburgh’s most famous (albeit extinct) volcano, Arthur’s Seat, in search of more treacherous terrain.

Matt was a Royal Navy mine clearance diver for two years but had to leave after a heart condition was diagnosed. He then received employment training support from Poppyscotland. Rhys served with 2 SCOTS and retired from the Army last year following a leg injury sustained while in Afghanistan. Both men are undertaking the challenge to raise funds for Poppyscotland to ensure that serving and ex-Service people and their families can receive support when they need it, both now and in the future. Their challenge is entirely self-funded which means that all money raised will be donated to the charity. 

The name Operation RagnaroK is derived from an old Norse term that is interpreted as Final Destiny of the Gods and the pair are bracing themselves for a tough time. Matt said: “I have always wanted to see lava and, admittedly, there might be simpler ways to do this but tackling these volcanoes and reaching the summits is going to be a huge adventure and will test our endurance and stamina to the maximum.

“Raising money for Poppyscotland is just as important as the physical challenge. I was helped by the charity to train for a new career and I want to give something back so that they can carry on helping veterans lead fulfilling lives on their return to civilian life.”

Rhys added: “The environment and varying climate of Iceland will test our resilience and perseverance. The skills we learned in the military will help us to operate in this remote area but it will still be extremely hazardous. As a former soldier, Poppyscotland is a cause close to my heart and I really hope people will get behind Operation RagnaroK and donate as much as they can to help the charity continue to make a difference to those in need.”

Poppyscotland’s events fundraiser Marianne Craig said: “This is a unique challenge and we admire Matt and Rhys for their drive and determination. We need to raise money all year round to ensure that members of the Armed Forces community can get the help they need to get their lives back on track. We rely on the enthusiasm and imagination of supporters like Matt and Rhys to help us make a difference and we wish them all the best.”

People can donate at  or by texting  70070 with the letters OPRK88£ and the amount they wish to donate.