CLACTON'S brave firefighters will prove they share a tight bond when they summit the three highest peaks in Britain in memory of a former colleague who took his own life.

The three peaks challenge, which will raise funds for mental health charity MIND, carries an extra poignancy for several of the ten-strong team.

A decade ago they completed the mammoth trek together with Joe Keighley, from Brightlingsea.

They raised money to help Joe's son, who had a rare Mucopolysaccharide Diseases.

Firefighter John Messent, 44, who has served on Clacton's Red Watch for 15 years, recalls: "We completed this challenge ten years ago for Joe's boy to raise funds for a charity that supported him.

"It was quite a sad situation - he needed a lot of treatment and was at Great Ormond Street.

"It was a very rare disease. "As well as raising money for him it really bonded the watch - we still talk about that trip today."

Father-of-three Joe was hugely popular, a firefighter by day and a rock singer with Brightlingsea-based band The Vipers by night.

But he suffered from depression for many years and took his own life in 2014 at the age of 42.

John, from Wivenhoe, said: "We all knew Joe and his issues, we tried to help him out, and when he took his own life it was a big blow to the Watch.

"He was a great person to have on the watch - always a laugh and a joke and fitted in well with everyone.

"He was a great team member and I would still love for him to be with us."

He added: "There are a lot of new faces in the watch, there are only two of us who did the walk with Joe. "We wanted to do something to show the importance of talking about mental health problems. "We don't want this to ever happen again. "We will take a little hip flask to the top and have a drink on him, it will be quite emotional doing it again."

Joe worked as a retained firefighter before serving in the RAF fire brigade, going on to become a regular firefighter with Clacton's Red Watch.

His former team's challenge will see the firefighters summit Ben Nevis, in Scotland, Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, and Mount Snowdon, in Wales, across 24 hours, in June.

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