Nijmegen journey includes commemoration, celebration

Nijmegen 2018
A member of the Joint Task Force Nijmegen Canadian Contingent gives a high five to a young boy while marching the streets surrounding Nijmegen, Netherlands. Photo: Master Corporal Gabrielle DesRochers, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

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The Courier

The 102nd annual International Four Days Marches Nijmegen ended on July 20. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) from across Canada participated in the event and were awarded the Four Day Marches medal.

Originally a means by which the Dutch infantry aimed to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying ability, the marches have evolved into an international event that draws more than 51 000 military and civilian participants from more than 50 countries.

The CAF contingent, led by Colonel Geoff Abthorpe, was made up of 14 teams from across Canada, with 11 marchers each, plus special guests and support staff.

Participants marched 40 kilometres a day for four days, finishing with 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.

While overseas, the CAF contingent commemorated Canada’s First World War legacy in Europe, in particular, the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. They attended ceremonies at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and at St-Symphorien Military Cemetery, where the first and last soldiers from the First World War are buried. A parade and remembrance service also took place at City Hall, in the Grand-Place in Mons, Belgium.

On the day prior to the Marches, the contingent held a memorial service at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, where 2338 Canadian soldiers who participated in the campaign to liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War are buried. In 1944-1945, more than 7600 Canadians died in the nine-month campaign.

Their sacrifice has never been forgotten. “We, the Dutch, are a very grateful country to the Canadian people for the efforts they took to liberate the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War,” Warrant Officer D.J.M. De Vries, Camp Heumensoord Sergeant Major said at the Groesbeek Remembrance service.

“And we show that gratitude by being present at these important moments.”

The CAF has participated in the Marches every year since 1952.

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