Twelve hundred British soldiers are marching their way over the flat countryside around the Dutch town of Holland this week, as they take part in the famous Nijmegen Marches.
Twelve hundred British soldiers are marching their way over the flat countryside around the Dutch town of Holland this week, as they take part in the famous Nijmegen Marches. The soldiers are from units stationed in Germany, Belgium and England. Together with eight thousand soldiers of other nations they are making this one of the best weeks of marching ever.
This year sixteen thousand marches will be pounding the tarmac. The marches started in 1909, to encourage physical fitness among the Dutch. For then four days of the marches the normally sedate town of Nijmegen takes on a carnival air. Participants from the various nations throng the streets in their nation costumes and uniforms. Many of the entries travel hundreds of miles to take part in the great "Hike".
The festivals commence with a flag ceremony, here the flags of each competeing nation is paraded into a huge arena, it is then hoisted to the music of massed military bands, Each day the marchers start off at different intervals, they must then cover distances from 30 to 50 kilometres. The marchers are not a race. They are a trial physical fitness and endurance. A medal is awarded to the people who complete the course each of the four days.
This year sixteen different nations are represented by hardy walkers. They range from America to Sweden, and from Canada to Luxembourg. Though the bulk of the entries are from the armies of the countries concerned, a large number of civilians take part. Without doubt the most popular task this year is the Israel contingent. Fresh from their desert war they have captivated the crowds with their dancing, singing and dancing.
As always, Britain forms one of the largest entries. The bulk of the soldiers taking part are from artillery units stationed in BAOR. They are supported by teams from the Royal Anglian Regiment, The Queens Regiment, and even the Royal Military Police. The Royal Air Force are also represented.
As in previous year the weather was perfect for the first day of the marches. If tradition runs true to form it will rain at least twice during the four days.
On the final day the marches will again end in the centre of Nijmegen, this time there will be a crowd of thousands waiting to bedock their favourite members with garlands of flowers. Most of the military marchers will have plodded 128 miles to receive their valued 'Nijmegen Medal'. As always the British Army hope to take that special prize for being the smartest unit to cross the finishing line.