South West Region

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Nijmegen Marches

. A contribution from Warrant Officer Chris Wright, 1329 Stroud Squadron, Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing I first attended the Nijmegen Marches way back in 1999 as a young cadet and caught the bug that has never left me all these years later. After several marches as a cadet I returned as a bright eyed team leader in 2006 … the heatwave year when the marches were cancelled, not the best year for an novice team leader but undeterred I returned in 2007 and successfully led the team. nij16bg1achriswright22aug16Since then I’ve been back with Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing every year. There is just something about the event I love so much, that I am enthused to keep making sure that experience is made available to today’s cadets. I believe it is one of the most gruelling events Air Cadets has to offer, with lots of time required to train and get physically ready for the challenge and to prepare the mind for its mental challenge too.   The event gives cadets the opportunity to live on a multi-national military base for a week with 6,000 troops from all over the world, to compete in the same challenge as they do and, crucially, to gain the same respect.  With some 40,000 participants and tens of thousands of spectators there is never a dull moment and always the opportunity to converse with someone from a different country to boost their morale, or to have yours boosted! Camaraderie amongst cadet teams is fiercely strong, as it is with the other military and civilian marchers. When we stop on the side of the road for a water break and time out, everyone passing will check if you’re ok and offer assistance if needed. Truly inspiring! This year was particularly tough for all teams, with temperatures reaching mid 30’s on some days: carrying a 10kg pack that makes all the difference! We had a mixed team of Nijmegen veterans and newbies who seamlessly bonded into one inseparable team and this esprit de corps showed on the road as a professional, dedicated and focussed marching team. We participated in the remembrance ceremony at the Canadian Cemetery for the first time this year and that was a very humbling and touching service that the team were glad to attend. nij16bg2achriswright22aug16 As for the final day, the closing march past led by Commandant Air Cadets was the best ever! Whoever thought that 5km extra after 160km would be a chore has obviously never marched in a column of 600 Brits, behind a band, being cheered on by literally hundreds of thousands of spectators and received a salute from the King of the Netherlands! An epic finale that has our cadets more excited and keen to return that ever before! nij16bg5achriswright22aug16 Nijmegen truly is an event without equal and as long as my knees hold out I will keep coming back with cadets to experience that magic that captured us all …. 13 marches competed for me .... this the 100th Nijmegen March! ENDS   nij16bg3chriswright22aug16

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