Three Air Cadets from Longbenton joined friends from across Durham / Northumberland Wing to overcome a series of challenges to complete the prestigious Nijmegen Marches in Holland.
For Benjamin Collins, 18, Regan Wood, 16 and Mary Delariarte, 16, the journey started 11 months ago, when the youngsters set themselves the challenge of training for the march. Over the weeks, fitness increased as the training marches around the North-East lengthened, in the lead-up to a qualifying 50-mile march at RAF Cosford in Wolverhampton.
The rigours of Nijmegen are such that only those who can prove their ability to complete the challenging preparatory march are allowed to take part. The three youngsters were delighted at their achievement.
Regan Wood, 16, said, “I thought I was fit until I realised how far I had to march! It was really good fun to meet new people and make new friends as we helped each other through the training.”
After leaving the UK destined for Nijmegen, the team of young people and their adult volunteers rested for the first couple of days at Heumensoord Camp, a tented facility just south of the town of Nijmegen. They enjoyed learning about and getting a taste of the local culture, as they acclimatised, before making final preparations for the walking days.
“In Holland, we visited a local Air Museum and attended the Military Memorial at Arnhem to pay our respects to the fallen soldiers, and seen a number of graves of soldiers from Northumberland.
“It really put into perspective what the march was all about,” added Regan.
After taping feet and making final uniform and kit preparations, they were in bed by 9:30am on Monday ready for the pre-sunrise start. Four days later, the team, coupled with blisters, crossed the finish line on the Via Gladioli in Nijmegen and officially completed the 103.5 miles Nijmegen 4-Day March; earning their road marching medals and Nijmegen badges.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done and I feel really proud of completing the march. It’s the toughest challenge I’ve come across but it was worth it – to meet so many people from around the world and experience their kindness, humour and encouragement was incredible.”
Squadron Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson said; “We are proud of all of the young people who completed the marches; they’ve worked hard for almost a year, displaying resilience, determination and commitment, managing their training alongside school and other activities.
“The medal and badge is a true testament to their character.”
The Longbenton Air Cadet Squadron is currently open to new members in Year 8 and above. Please visit www.2344.org.uk