Thames Valley Wing Nijmegen 2014

The team arrived at RAF Northolt in July after spending every weekend walking fifteen-twenty miles as training for the week long marches. image001Accompanying the cadets went Flt Lt Kisley of Banbury and Fg Off Wicks of Didcot, both of whom having spent nearly every weekend training the team ready for Nijmegen.

From Northolt the team travelled by coach across the channel to Calais and then through Europe to Nijmegen. They then took a day off to relax in the town, where the team got on increasingly well and unlike any of my previous years, there were no problematic individuals. The morale was rather high and everyone enjoyed the first day quite well, so we move on to the next day.

image003In the morning the team aided the Dutch military by volunteering to raise some of the participant countries flags during the opening ceremony of the marches in Heumensoord.

The team then took a train over from Nijmegen to Oosterbeek close to Arnhem where the 1st Airborne Corps captured and defended the bridge over the Rhine. The team visited the memorial where 1900 men were buried after the battle of Arnhem and paid their respects. Following which they visited the museum and viewed the exhibits that had been restored or left behind when the building was abandoned in 1944 after the British forces held it for several days.

The team returned to Heumensoord and after dinner visited the town to watch some live music being played throughout the area. After another extremely enjoyable night they returned to bed and spent the next day preparing themselves for the event. Some admin was in order and once that was complete they lounged for a day before the marches began, making friends and visiting the British Military run shop.

image005Tuesday morning, the team woke at roughly 03:30 before having breakfast and getting outside for an 04:30 march off. The team were all quite excited and clearly apprehensive, although they all continued to get on well and the morale was suspiciously high for 04:00.

Around 05:00 the team left for a long and hot day, returning at around midday and in front of every other military team, of which there were 400.

The next few days none of the team were entirely coherent for, but the gist was that the second day took five hours and fifty minutes, and the third day took six hours thirty.

image007This was impressive for a number of reasons; the team being the fastest in the world notwithstanding, the real measure of the team’s strength was that these speeds were being set in 30 degree heat and 80-100% humidity. Moreover, the team itself was not being pushed by the staff; the team were all of the mind-set that speed was good, wishing to return quickly for a warm shower.

Sadly during this time the incident over the Ukraine where a passenger liner was brought down took place, and the final day was declared a National day of mourning. This meant that no songs were to be sung and no flags were carried, giving the whole march a sombre atmosphere. Despite this the team remained motivated and fast. They were yet again the first British team in Charlemagne and spent two hours resting and re-hydrating before the march past.image009 It was at this point the team were presented their medals by Flt Lt Kisley and Fg Off Wicks. Notably, the team award (which is earned if 90%+ of the team completes the marches) was presented to Cdt Wyn Humphrey as decided by the two staff members. Cdt Wyn Humphrey struggled on occasions throughout the week but endeavoured to complete the march, which earned him the accolade and it was clear it meant a great deal to him.

The march past lasted an hour, and took the column of British military straight through the main road into the city lined with locals who gave out drinks, food and hugs.

image011Finally the team took the bus back to Heumensoord and got changed before heading to the party tent to relax with the remainder of the walkers still conscious.

Overall the 2014 team was the best team I have walked with thus far, having the best teamwork and highest general morale. Not only that, they really bonded well and will I’m sure go on to do great things in the ACO, because of the development each of them went through this year, culminating in completing the marches in record time and as a thoroughly good group of people