By Richard Lawrence
July 11, 2017 marked the 65th time the Canadian Armed Forces sent a contingent to the annual Nijmegen Marches in the Netherlands since 1952 and the 20th time that the Nijmegen Departure Parade has been held at the Canadian War Museum. Leading the contingent of 13 eleven-person teams was Col. Geoff Abthorpe and the reviewing officer was Commodore Hadyn Edmundson, Chief of Staff for Military Personnel Command.
The Nijmegen Marches was originally a way for the Dutch infantry to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying capabilities and has evolved into an international four-day event where 47,000 participants, both civilian and military, from 50 countries march the route of the Allied troops in WWII by covering 160 kilometres in 4 days carrying rucksacks of at least 10 kilograms. During this journey they often stop at military cemeteries to pay respects. It is expected that at least 1,000,000 Dutch people will line the routes to cheer on the participants.
The Departure Ceremony started with the march on of the team who were then reviewed by the official party, including Commodore Edmundson, representatives from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Stephen Quick of the War Museum, and the Royal Canadian Legion. Addresses were then given and three wreaths — from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Canadian War Museum — were presented to the Contingent Commander to be taken to the Netherlands and laid at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.
In conjunction with the departure parade, a pair of miniature wooden shoes was presented to the Canadian War Museum by the family of James McGinnis, a member of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) during WWII and who served in the Netherlands. These shoes, known as “Liberation Shoes,” were a way to express gratitude to the Canadian soldiers who liberated their country. The shoes were donated by McGinnis’s daughter, Doreen, and son-in-law, Simon Beekhuizen, who was 8 years old and living in the Netherlands at the time of the liberation.
After the presentation and march-off of the contingent, a reception was held in the Lebreton Gallery of the museum.
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