By Richard Lawrence
Today was the 21st time the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Nijmegen Task Force has held their official departure parade at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The Nijmegen Marches consists of teams from over 50 countries totally over 51,000 personnel marching 160 km in four days through the Dutch countryside carrying rucksacks with a minimum of 10 kg of weight in remembrance of the losses over two world wars. Originally conceived as a method to increase long distance marching and weight-carrying capabilities for the Dutch infantry, it has turned into an international event drawing military participation worldwide.
The CAF has been participating in the Nijmegen Marches since 1952 and the marches themselves were started in 1916, although not in its current configuration. This year, the CAF contingent will consist of 14 teams from the Navy, Army, and Airforce as well as other branches of the CAF. There will also be representation embedded in the teams from the RCMP, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Veterans Affairs, the Royal Canadian Legion, and others groups. Each team consists of 11 members as well as support staff.
There are several milestones to be considered in this year’s contingent. This will be the first year for participation from the Canadian Rangers, represented by the 2 Cdn Ranger Patrol Group of 2 Cdn Division – Quebec and the Judge Advocate General – Legal Branch has fielded a team. The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders are celebrating their 150th anniversary and the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) is entered. Let’s not forget that it is also the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War (the proper name at the time was not World War I because we didn’t know we had to number them yet).
The reviewing officer was LGen. Charles Lamarre, Commander of Military Personnel Command, and the Contingent Commander is Col. Geoff Abthorpe, for the second year in a row (this is his fourth Nijmegen excursion). During his remarks to the troops, LGen. Lamarre honoured CWO Keith Jones who passed away suddenly in May, 2018, and who had served in the CAF for 40 years. CWO Jones had been the Cdn Contingent Nijmegen Task Force Regimental Sergeant Major since 2006 until his retirement and was an enthusiastic supporter of all things athletic. He was involved in many charitable organizations such as Soldier On and the 100 Km March. LGen. Lamarre imagined CWO Jones, “ … would be beaming with pride if he were here with us today. And he had that great moustache that’d be twitchin’ and there’d be a glint is his eye. And he’d be so honoured to see you off today.”
Mr. Henk van der Zwan, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, addressed the parade following LGen. Lamarre and said that, “ … cheering people along the way will guide you through the Dutch landscapes surrounding Nijmegen. You will notice that they cheer for all the marchers but the cheers are the loudest when they see the Canadian flag you carry. It is one of the ways we show that we have not forgotten and that we will never forget what Canada did for us.”
The Canadian troops will spend time at Vimy Ridge and Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery where 2338 Canadian soldiers are buried. The will also visit St. Symphorien Cemetery where the first and last killed Commonwealth soldiers of the Great War are buried. The Nijmegen Marches take place during the 17th to 21st July, 2018.
For more photos go to: http://www.richardlawrencephotography.ca/rlpgalleries/2018/nijmegen/