Members of the Joint Task Force Nijmegen 2016 Canadian contingent press ahead in the countryside during Day 2 of marches at Nijmegen, the Netherlands, on July 20, 2016. (Photo: LS Brad Upshall, 12 Wing Imaging Services, Shearwater, N.S.)
Members of Joint Task Force Nijmegen 2016 contingent pose for a group photo in front of the Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge National Park, France, on July 16, 2016. (Photo: 12 Wing Imaging Services, Shearwater, N.S.)
Canadian Armed Forces teams complete the 2016 Nijmegen Marches
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2016
OTTAWA - July 22 marked the end of the 100th annual International Four Days Marches Nijmegen in the Netherlands. This year, more than 200 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members from across Canada, including a team of Royal Canadian Dragoons based at Garrison Petawawa, and Formation Europe participated in the marching event, and were awarded a special 100th anniversary edition of the Four Day Marches Cross.
“I could not be any more appreciative of the strength of character that our Canadian Armed Forces members demonstrated once again this year at the Nijmegen Marches,” said Colonel Kristiana Stevens, who led the CAF contingent of 15 teams of 11 marchers each, along with VIPs and support staff. “They completed this wonderful challenge together, and that is only a small reflection of their capacity for harmony and teamwork.”
Starting on July 19, the group, which represented all the ranks, trades, and diversity of Canada’s military, marched 40 km a day for four days, culminating in a five-kilometre victory parade. The parade was attended by thousands of spectators who cheered the CAF contingent in commemoration of the Canadian soldiers who liberated the Netherlands from Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The lives of more than 7,600 Canadians were lost during the nine-month campaign that played a key role in the culmination of the war - a sacrifice which has never been forgotten by the Dutch people.
Now, over half a century later, Canadians and the Dutch still remember the events of that time and celebrate the lasting bonds that were created years ago.
During the marches, CAF members walked the same terrain where many Canadians fell. A ceremony took place on day three at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands, commemorating fallen Canadians, and prior to the marches, the CAF contingent commemorated Canada’s First World War legacy at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and the Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France. “The Canadian contingent can look back and be proud of having overcome the major challenge presented by the Nijmegen Marches,” said Lieutenant General Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.
“They can be proud as well for having paid such a fitting tribute to the Canadian servicemen and women who fought and died in Europe during the First World War and the Second World War, and for their own military service as members of the Canadian Armed Forces who continue to answer their nation’s call in the name of peace and security.”
Originally a means to increase the long-distance marching and weight-carrying ability of the Dutch infantry, the marches have evolved into an international event that draws more than 50,000 civilians from over 50 countries, in addition to military participants.
Among the Garrison Petawawa-based marchers was Warrant Officer Debbie Attrux, one of two Independent Marchers known as Sweepers. She trailed behind the Canadian contingent, making sure everyone stayed together, was in overall good shape, and provided mentorship to those who needed it.
“The marches were both exhilarating and tremendous hard work at the same time,” she said, having returned to Petawawa early Tuesday morning. “The teams had to work through a range of weather from extreme heat to a morning of downpours that soaked every inch within minutes.
“The range of emotions was no less,” she added.
With “determination, pride and teamwork,” WO Attrux noted the Canadian contingent successfully completed all the marches, bolstered in no small part by the support and enthusiasm from those on the sidelines. “The pain and discomfort disappears for short periods as you ride the waves of jublilation that the supporters produce,” she explained.
WO Attrux is slated to return next year as Sweeper.
The International Four Days Marches is the largest multiple day march in the world, and it is observed by millions as the body of walkers pass through hundreds of small European villages. Though it first began in 1909, members from the CAF have been participating in the event since 1952.
During the months of training necessary to be selected for the Canadian contingent, candidates test their physical and mental stamina by marching a minimum of 500 km as a team, in addition to conducting two consecutive days of 40 km marches. In general, most CAF participants train an average of 700 to 1,000 km in anticipation of the Marches.
It is primarily a team event, which develops core military values including leadership, teamwork, and camaraderie.
The 2016 CAF contingent included personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy - Team MARLANT (Halifax) and Team MARPAC (Victoria); the Royal Canadian Air Force - Team 19 Wing (Comox), Team 8 Wing (Trenton) and Team 17 Wing (Winnipeg); the Canadian Army - Team 1RNFLD/1st Bn Royal Newfoundland Regiment (St. John’s), Équipe Canadian Grenadier Guards (Montreal), Team Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Team Lorne Scots (Brampton), Team 3 Div (Edmonton), Team Royal Canadian Dragoons (Petawawa) and Équipe Fusiliers de Sherbrooke (Montreal) as well as other elements including Chief Military Personnel – Team CFB Borden, VCDS – Team NCR and Équipe Formation Europe.