Three cadets from 1279 (Melton Mowbray) Air Cadets have completed the 4 day 100km walk in Nijmegan, Holland over the last week.
Their journey started back in January with nearly 30 cadets, put through a selection process over the following months. After a grueling march in the rain at RAF Cosford for the qualifying event, all three cadets were selected be one of the 18 cadets who went out to Holland.
The team was lead by Squadron Leader Mayoh-Smith and her husband Flight Lietenant Mayoh-Smith. It was a great privelege for our cadets to be part of a team which included first timers as well as veterans of up to 7 Nijmegan marches.
The cadets arrived early, so took a day trip to Oosterbeek Military Cemetery and the Airborne Museum on Monday. Oosterbeek contains graves of some of those who fought bravely in the ‘Market Garden’ Arnhem landings (including two Victoria Cross winners), famously depicted in the film “A Bridge Too Far”.
“You soon get used to early starts whilst training for Nijmegan” said Cpl Gregory, and Tuesday morning was no different. The cadets woke up at 0400 to the sound of tens of thousands of marchers from around the world getting ready and preparing to leave. Around 45,000 walkers start the marches, with an eventual drop -out rate of approximately 10%. Thankfully all of our cadets from around the wing made it through to the finish!
The third day of marching was through some beautiful scenery – marching through the ‘Dutch Alps’, a series of seven hills which were made even more demanding by the punishing heat! Temperatures rose to around 33C but the cadets kept them selves going with marching songs and completed the day happy, but blistered.
By the fourth day of marching, the whole team was blistered and sore, but the end was near! Finally they were given their medals and began the 5km march past. To complete the final, biggest moment of the cadets careers so far, they fell into a big squad, marching with the hundreds of other Air, Army and Navy cadets from around the country past representatives from every participating nation’s armed forces – which made for a very long salute!
Many thanks go to everyone who made it possible for our cadets to take part and especially the Melton Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) who kindly helped sponsor them.
Cadet Paige Booth said “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe that we managed to complete it and get our medals. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Flying Officer Peter Knifton RAFVR (T) said “It was brilliant to see not just one, but three of our cadets travelling abroad to take part in such a large international event. I know they all had the time of their lives, and hopefully will be going back next year!”
“Our cadets were simply insperational and I recieved so many plaudits about their behaviour and competitive spirit.” Said Air Commandore Dawn McCafferty ”It was wonderful to see over 350 air cadets in the British Military Contigent.”
CI Frances Tatlow
1279 (Melton Mowbray) Squadron