Canadian Armed Forces Participation in the 2019 Nijmegen Marches
From July 16-19, 2019, a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contingent formed from more than 200 members, will participate in the International Four Days Marches Nijmegen. Fourteen CAF teams, generally composed of 11 to 12 members each, plus special guests, will march approximately 40 km a day for a total of 160 km, through the countryside and towns around the city of Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.
The Nijmegen Marches, originally a means for Dutch infantry to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying abilities, have evolved into an international four-day event, which draws over 40,000 civilian marchers from 84 countries, in addition to 6,000 military participants, seeking to challenge their physical and mental endurance. The marches are now the world’s largest walking event.
This year marks the 103rd anniversary of the International Four Days Marches Nijmegen, although the CAF has been participating since 1952, making 2019 the 67th year of CAF participation.
Over 7600 Canadians died in the nine-month campaign in 1944-1945 to liberate the Netherlands and carry the Second World War to its conclusion, 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 between our two countries years ago. During the four days of the Nijmegen Marches, CAF members will walk the same terrain where many Canadians fell.
The Nijmegen Marches present an opportunity to remember our fallen who fought so fiercely in the region over the past 100 years and to reiterate our continued engagement to peace and security in Europe.
The day before the start of the Four Days Marches, CAF participants will pay their respects at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 2,300 Canadian soldiers and aviators who died fighting to liberate the Netherlands in 1944-1945.
During their stay overseas, they will also have an opportunity to visit the Sloedam Memorial and the Liberation Museum in Zeeland, after which they will hold a commemoration ceremony at Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the North-West Europe Campaign. The contingent will then march through the city streets of Bergen op Zoom to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation by Canadians.
On their way to the Marches in the Netherlands, the CAF teams will also have an opportunity to attend the annual Vimy Memorial commemoration at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, in France.
By holding these commemorative events, the CAF will mark the sacrifices made by two generations of Canadians so that we might continue to live in freedom and security.
Canada’s contribution to peace and security in Europe continues to this day. The Canadian Armed Forces have 500 members permanently stationed across 19 NATO nations in Europe. Approximately 2000 members are also serving in Europe at any given time as part of its sea, land and air contributions to the security and stability of the region.
The Nijmegen Marches consist of four days of marching through the countryside and the crowded streets of towns and villages in the area surrounding the city of Nijmegen. For military participants, each day’s march begins and ends at the same base camp, Heumensoord, which is built every year just south of Nijmegen. The four-day route loops into the countryside and back to camp, like the four leaves of a clover. Each military participant completes that day’s itinerary while wearing standard combat clothing and carrying a military backpack weighted with 10 kilograms, in addition to individual provisions (water, snacks, etc.).
The Marches are neither a competition nor a speed test, but proper training and good team spirit are required to ensure success. 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 1000 km in anticipation of the Marches.
Nijmegen is primarily a team event, which develops core military values as leadership, teamwork, and camaraderie. The CAF contingent includes military personnel from across the country with diverse backgrounds, representing all ranks, trades, and environments, Regular and Reserve Force. By working together and supporting one another, they will complete the Marches successfully and in good order.
Royal Canadian Navy (2)
Maritime Forces Pacific (Esquimalt, British Columbia)
Maritime Forces Atlantic (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Canadian Army (7)
The Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (across Canada)
Royal Canadian Air Force (3)
Military Personnel Command (1)
5 Field Ambulance and 55 Field Ambulance */ Canadian Forces Health Services Group (Valcartier, Québec)
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff – Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) (1)
National Capital Region
* Primary Reserve Units
Capt Kathleen Soucy
Public Affairs Officer
Department of National Defence
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