Welcome to the Canadian military troops for the 4-Days marches of Nijmegen.
As usual every year many soldiers come to the Netherlands to participate in the 4-Days marches of Nijmegen. They march for 40 kilometers with a 10 kilo heavy back pack, unless the weather is to warm. But then the march leader would intervene. So also Canadian troops arrived in 2014.
Of course RCL Branch 005 welcomed the contingent and their guests, in total about 225 people, for their visit to the Netherlands and the traditional commemoration at the Zevenheuvelenweg in Groesbeek, during the third day of the 4-Days marches.
This year was especially marked by the beginning of WWI (100 years), the start of WWII (75 years) and 70 years after D-Day. It also was the last time Keith Jones as Chief Warrant Officer RSM accompanied the Canadian Military contingent in Nijmegen. The Canadian contingent was led by BGen. Alain Pelletier. At the request of RSM Keith Jones RCL Branch 005 accompanied them with a Colour Party during a short “battlefield tour” prior to the 4-Days marches. This invitation was of course accepted with great pleasure by the board of RCL Branch 005.
On the evening of Friday, July 11 a delegation of eight people from RCL Branch 005 travelled to Lesquin in France where the first meeting with the contingent took place. It also became clear why this tour was organised for the “new” generation (Canadian) military. They are also extremely proud about the reason their forefathers fought in Europe far away from home, namely for our freedom.
Timetable & Activities on July 12
07.30AM Saturday July 12, leaving the Hotel
08.00AM Arrival at the visitors centre in Vimy Ridge
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is a memorial site in France dedicated to the memory of Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. It also serves as the place of commemoration for First World War Canadian soldiers killed or presumed dead in France who have no known grave. The monument is the centrepiece of a 100-hectare (250-acre) preserved battlefield park that encompasses a portion of the ground over which the Canadian Corps made their assault during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first occasion on which all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle as a cohesive formation, and thus became a Canadian national symbol of achievement and sacrifice. On 12 April 1917, the 10th Canadian Brigade attacked. By nightfall on 12 April, the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge. The Canadian Corps suffered 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge has considerable significance for Canada. Although the battle is not generally considered Canada’s greatest military achievement, the image of national unity and achievement gave the battle importance.
After the war the Government of Canada announced that the Imperial War Graves Commission had awarded Canada eight sites—five in France and three in Belgium—on which to erect memorials. In 2001 the Canadian Government started a project to restore the memorial sites in France and Belgium. In 2005 the Vimy Ridge monument was closed and re-opened in 2007 by her Majesty Queen Elisabeth.
08.00AM-Noon Meeting with the invitees and tour around the trenches and tunnels of Vimy.
12.00AM Performance of the RCL005 Colour Party in a commemoration at the Monument of Vimy.
The RCL005 Colour Party has been part of a memorable and impressive military ceremony close to the monument of Vimy Ridge. Of course there was the laying of wreaths to commemorate and memorable words were spoken by many of the attending guests. The ceremony was observed with respect and interest by tourists and locals.
The tour, the memorial and the ceremony have left a deep impression on the members of RCL Branch 005 present, but also on the troops and guests. People will be talking of it for a long time. Many pictures were taken and shared directly with “home”, by smartphones.
01.00PM-02.45PM Visit to Langemark
At the request of the Canadian army command there was a visit organised to the German military cemetery at Langemark- Poelkapelle in Belgium. The German commanders who participated in the 4-Days marches were present to jointly commemorate.
The Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Langemark is a military cemetery from WW1 at the Belgium village of Langemark. More than 44.000 German and two British soldiers who died in WW1 found their last resting place. The cemetery is situated about 500 meters north from the Village Centre.
At the cemetery the Colour Party of RCL005 participated in a ceremony together with Canadians and German.
For a few attendees, for sure for some of the spectators too, it seemed an “odd” meeting. The sentiments were split in two ways, but motivated by the idea that the war is over and the present generation is not responsible for the actions of their ancestors, it was a short and respectful ceremony. There was clearly sought for reconciliation and cooperation. This was, especially for the older generation still one step to far. Yet there was also admiration for the gesture.
03.15-04.30PM The group visited the Essex Farm Cemetery at the edge of Ieper, Belgium.
Essex Farm Cemetery is a British military cemetery for fallen from WW1, situated in the Belgium village of Boezinge. The cemetery is halfway Ieper and the village centre of Boezinge.
During the war close to the location there was a farm the British named “Essex Farm”.
The location was close to the front line, which is a few kilometers east of the Ieperlee canal. In Spring of 1915 the site was used as a First Aid station. In that period the first dead who fell in the Second Battle of Ypres were buried here. Also later that year until October 1917 graves were added. At the cemetery there are several fallen from the 49th (West Riding) Division.
There are 1204 deaths commemorated, including 104 who could not be identified.
Besides the fact that many casualties are buried here, there is also a plaque present of John McCrae the famous Canadian military doctor from the First World War, who wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields”. It is believed that John McCrae was killed in this area, although his body was never found. The story of John McCrae is well known and is also written down at the website RCL005. Again, there was a small memorial with the deploy of the RCL005 Colour Party.
07.30-09.30PM Next the whole group left to the center of Ieper to attend the Last Post Service at the Menin Gate, which is held every day at 08.00PM in memory of all victims who died in war.
The Menin Gate is a monument in the Belgian town of Ieper. The gate was built in 1927 by the British on the east side of the city, in memory of the approximately 54,900 British soldiers who died in the First World War and were not identified or found. The gate is one of the memorials for the missing of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Menin Gate Memorial bears the names of 54,896 missing soldiers and officers of the British Commonwealth. During excavation work in Flanders’ Fields remains of soldiers are still found. Once these are identified as those of a missing British soldier, they are reburied in an official ceremony and the name removed from the memorials of the unknown.
Since 1929 (except 1940 and 1944) every night at the stroke of eight the Last Post is played by a group of buglers of the Municipal Fire Department: lest we forget how they fought for us (Lest we forget …).
07.30PM During the ceremony the Colour Party of RCL Branch 005 marched to the Menin gate in front of the Canadian Pipers and the Contingent led by BGen Pelletier. Guests were already at the Menin Gate and placed a wreath after the sounding of the Last Post. Branch President Gerard Hendriks participated on behalf of RCL Branch 005 as in the other commemorations during this tour. He placed a wreath which was made beforehand by the supply unit of the contingent .
There was a very special moment when the Canadian National Anthem “O Canada” was initiated A cappella by BGen Allain Pelletier, immediately followed by the full group of 200 soldiers. This was a very emotional moment for everyone.
09.30PM End of day
The words of BGen Alain Pelletier and the way he and CWO Keith Jones joined the Colour Party of RCL Branch 005 in the various ceremonies during this day was considered as a high respect and gratitude by the participants of RCL005 and very valuable and accepted with pride. Many thanks and goodbyes were said until the reunion at the 4/Days marches in Nijmegen a few days later.
The next day the RCL Branch 005 group woke up very early (05:00) for the journey back to the Netherlands.
July 16 Reception at Berg en Dal It is a tradition the commanders of the British and Canadian contingent organize a reception during the Nijmegen 4-Days marches. It takes place in Berg en Dal, Hotel Valmonte. On behalf of RCL Branch 005 an appropriate delegation was again present this year. This time there was a special occasion, it appeared to be the last time Chief Warrant Officer Keith Jones was present as a military chief in Nijmegen. He retired the service. RCL Branch 005 has always enjoyed working together with Keith and particularly the memorable trip to France and Belgium, which some members of RCL Branch 005 participated in. It was very pleasant goodbye to Keith and meeting with his successor. RCL005 expressed to have confidence there will be a comparable way of working together like with Keith Jones in the future.
July 17 Groesbeek One day later, on July 17, the commemoration at the Canadian War Cemetery at Groesbeek was held. The Canadian contingent as said was marching already almost 3 days. That was visible as they arrived at the cemetery in small groups. There was a moment of recognition between the military and some members of RCL Branch 005. The memorial was performed with honor and respect as every year, but this time the connection to the Canadian military was a bit stronger for some.
For a visible impression please observe our pictures and click on this link.