Canadian Military Contingent of the 97th Nijmegen Marches to take place on 16-19 July 2013
LCdr Tony Zezza
The Nijmegen Marches are a rigorous and prestigious annual event which has involved Canadian participation since 1952. The Marches require that military entrants complete the four-day 160-km (4 x 40-km) march in combat uniform, carrying a minimum rucksack load of 10-kg. The event annually draws over 40,000 marchers from 50 different nations -- and is witnessed by over 1 million spectators along the 160-km route.
The year 2013 will mark the 97th time the Marches have been held since they began in 1909, and Canadian servicemen and women will once again "ruck-up" and take to the roads and trails of Canada, in preparation for this world class endurance event. The Marches are both a challenging and an emotional experience, especially for Canadian Forces members. It is challenging because the 160-km Marches are the ultimate test of a CF member’s physical fitness and stamina, in an event that requires effective teamwork and strong leadership.
In addition to the obvious physical hardships - NIJMEGEN MARCH is the largest annual pilgrimage of Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen to a war cemetery outside of Canada. During the Second World War, Canadian soldiers liberated the area around Nijmegen, and there is a large Canadian military cemetery in nearby Groesbeek. It serves as the final resting place for over 2,300 Canadian soldiers and airmen. The cemetery is on the route of the 3rd day of the March, and all military marchers halt there to pay their respects and conduct remembrance services.
The Canadian ceremony is among the largest and most elaborate. For most of the young Canadian marchers, it is the first time they have visited a Canadian War Cemetery, and they are often left surprised at just how emotional an experience it is. They also come away with a better understanding of their own history, and they see why the Dutch people hold the Canadian teams in such high regard.