The Nijmegen experience
By: Élof François-Olivier Gauthier
On Friday the eleventh of July, the RMC Nijmegen team 2008 flew out of Canada to join the Canadian contingent for Operation Nijmegen in Netherlands. The team had trained for eight weeks accomplishing more than 750 kilometres in the region of Kingston prior to their departure.
For many of the team members, it was their first trip to Europe and their first real experience with other military contingents. All military participants were lodged in the Heumensoord camp. Heumensoord is a temporary camp that was built only for the march. It was a very nice and constructive experience to live on the same camp as other military members from diverse country such as Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, GreatBritain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
The Canadian military personnel had the opportunity to visit the Vimy Ridge memorial and pay their respect to our fallen veterans. A ceremony was also held to commemorate the contributions of the veterans of the First World War.
On the morning of the 15th of July at 1800 hrs, the march began. After the first three kilometres, the military route joined the civilian route. It was an eye opener! The streets were filled with people marching, all of them coming from all four corners of the World. There were 38,432 people who marched which included approximately 6,000 military personnel from most ranks.
The number of participants is impressive but something even more remarkable is the number of supporters that attended the festivities. More than a million spectators surrounded the side of the streets and roads to cheer on the marchers. There were Dutch kids who were giving out Hi-fives to the marchers and were asking us for souvenirs. Also, the spectators were handing out water, cookies, cucumbers and various candies. The Dutch are very thankful for the sacrifices that were made by the Canadians during the Second World War in the liberation of their country. I will always remember one of the marchers grabbing my friend by the arm and telling him that the Canadians saved him and that he was grateful.
Although the days included many hours of walking which weren’t always easy, we quickly realized that singing made the time go by faster which was motivating and raised our morale. We quickly learned everyone sings during the marches in Nijmegen. We sang so many times that the songs were stuck in our heads as long as two weeks after Nijmegen. “When my Grand daddy, was a 101, he did the Nijmegen marches…”, “Canadians, we’re very proud…”.
Overall, I think that the 2008 RMC Nijmegen team represented RMC very well in the Netherlands. We all completed the march as a team. Also, throughout the training and the march itself, we had a very good team spirit and high morale. The team was composed of Capt. Poulin (12 Squadron commander), Élof Dukic, Élof Gauthier, Élof Senécal, Élof Beauchamp Davidson, OCdt Moulton, OCdt Cross, OCdt Gillis, OCdt Wirth-Pothier, OCdt Dorion and Lt. Lui from Borden. I strongly encourage all the Officer-Cadets from RMC, if the opportunity arises, to try the RMC Nijmegen team of 2009.
I would like to thank the RMC Club for their generous contributions in the support of the team.
You can watch an entertaining short team building video of the team when they are finishing the third day by clicking here.
It was not all marching and partying during the Nijmegen March for the RMC team this past summer. Pictured in a sombre moment is the RMC team at Groesbeek Canadian war cemetery when they were paying respect to 2536 Major H.C.J. Morison, (RMC 1936.) He died near the end of WWII – on 8th February 1945 in the Netherlands