The 102nd annual International Four Days Marches Nijmegen came to an end July 20, 2018, in the Netherlands for 2018, where members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) from across Canada participated in the annual event. When they reached the end, each was awarded the coveted Four Day Marches medal.
“I am very proud of the dedication and perseverance that our Canadian Armed Forces contingent demonstrated at the 102nd annual International Four Days Marches Nijmegen. Their camaraderie and esprit de corps, two characteristics required to complete such an endeavour, were evident,” said Colonel Geoff Abthorpe, Commander Joint Task Force Nijmegen, in a press release issued July 20.
The contingent of CAF members, led by Colonel Geoff Abthorpe, marched 40 km a day for four days, concluding in a five-kilometre victory parade.
Thousands of spectators attended the parade to cheer on the CAF contingent in commemoration of the Canadian soldiers who liberated the Netherlands from Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The CAF contingent was comprised of 14 teams from across Canada, with 11 marchers each, plus special guests and support staff. The military personnel who participated were from the all three elements: Army, Navy, and Air Force, representing all ranks and trades, Regular and Reserve Force, male and female, and of diverse backgrounds.
“The Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in the International Four Days Marches Nijmegen brings pride to our whole country. Our participation in the marches allowed us to commemorate the sacrifices made by two generations of Canadians who fought for the rights and freedom we have today,” said Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, Commander Military Personnel Command, in the press release.
Initially, a means by which the Dutch infantry aimed to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying ability, the Marches have morphed into an international four-day event, drawing in 51,000-plus military and civilian participants from more than 50 countries to challenge their physical and mental endurance. The CAF has participated in the Marches every year since 1952.
“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. And we show that gratitude by being present at these important moments,” said Warrant Officer D.J.M. De Vries, Camp Heumensoord Sergeant Major at the Groesbeek Remembrance service, in the press release.
The day before the marches, the contingent held a memorial service at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, where 2,338 Canadian soldiers, who participated in the campaign to liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War, are buried.
In 1944-1945 more than 7,600 Canadians died in the nine-month campaign to liberate the Netherlands and carry the Second World War to its conclusion. Their sacrifice never has, nor will it ever, been forgotten. Both Canadians and the Dutch still recall those events and celebrate the lasting bonds that were created between our two countries more than a half a century ago.