12 Members of the ATC from all over South and East Midlands Wing recently travelled to Belgium to complete the infamous ‘Dodentocht’ – ‘The Belgian Deathmarch’.
The March consists of a 100km route, and must be completed within 24 Hours. The event begins at 2100hrs on the Friday evening, with successful entrants finishing before 2100hrs on the Saturday.
Many of the entrants describe the walk as two separate parts. The first half of the route is a blur, walking through the dead of night, at times when it would make more sense to be in bed!!!!
The Second half of the route is where the pain begins to set in. As soon as the sun rises, the temperature begins to rise, this year hitting 30 degrees.
The event takes place in the centre of Belgium in a town just south of Brussels called Bornem. The event was originally set up by some Belgian walkers who had enjoyed the Nijmegen march in Holland so much that they decided to set up their own. This year was the 40th anniversary of the march, and had an estimated 1300 entrants. The success rate changes every year but is typically between 50-60%.
In true South and East Midlands Wing fashion, all members finished in the allotted time, before going to shower and get some much needed sleep!!
Pilot Officer Rudd, who was on the march for the third year running said ‘It is a very difficult march as the name suggests, not just physically but mentally as well. Luckily, all entrants from South and East Midlands Wing have been through the Wing’s Nijmegen Training, and had the relevant experience.’
On the return journey, the party stopped at Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate. Both are war memorials in Belgium. At Tyne Cot, members of the Wing laid a wreath and held a minute silence in respect to those who lost their lives.
The South and East Midlands Wing party attends the Deathmarch with the help of someone called Andy Bodman or ‘Bodders’. Andy lives in Bristol and organises a coach every year to the Deathmarch. The coach carries members of the ATC from all over the country, as well as non-members of the ATC. Andy and his family host many of these participants at their house on the evening before the trip leaves, including members of South and East Midlands Wing. Members of the Wing who have completed the march through this route are very grateful for the efforts of Andy and his family, and couldn’t attend the event with such ease without their help.
By Pilot Officer Rudd RAF VR(T)
504 (West Nottingham) Squadron