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Cadets Walk 100 Miles to Celebrate Anniversary

Published: 24 Aug 2016


Air Cadets from 308 (Colchester) Squadron recently celebrated the organisation's and their squadron's 75th birthday by completing the Nijmegen Marches, in Holland, with a little help from the RAF Charitable Trust.

The event, known internationally as the Walk of the World, is the equivalent of completely four marathons in four days with 50,000 people, from 78 nations, undertaking the 100 mile journey.

One of the biggest walking events in the world, the Marches first began in 1916 to encourage fitness, evolving to become a celebration of the liberation of the lowland countries in two world conflicts, each day starting on Nijmegen Bridge and visiting the town of Arnhem on day one.

Nine cadets from 308 Squadron and one from 295 (Witham & Rivenhall) Squadron began training for the event in January, undertaking a comprehensive schedule that was designed to build up the morale, strength and physical endurance and give the cadets the greatest chance of success.

The RAF Charitable Trust provided a grant of £1200 to the squadron which not only purchased walking shirts, day packs and important hydration equipment, but helped subsidise the cost of the trip for the cadets, some of whom were at risk of not participating due to the costs involved.

Trust Director, Amanda Butcher, said "The Trustees were very impressed with the effort from the squadron to ensure that the trip was open to everyone and were pleased to be able to help."

The squadron, who successfully took teams to the Nijmegen Marches in 2011 and 2012, also teamed up with the British Dutch Walking Fellowship for logistical support at the event, including accommodation and medical assistance.

With a gruelling schedule that involved a 3.15am wake up call, the cadets walked 40km a day, with the exception of two who were over 18 and walked the longer course of 50km a day. They were welcomed along the route by the sights and sounds of music, dancing and celebrations.

"Local residents would camp on their front lawns from 4am offering tea, coffees, fruit and sweets while offering encouragement to the walkers," said Flt Lt Jean Robinson, Officer Commanding 308 (Colchester) Squadron.

"The challenge for any day with the team was to try and get as much distance covered in the cooler part of the day as you possibly could," adds Jean. "The sight of the bridge at the end of the day was a welcome relief.

"It was a tough challenge which pushed the cadets but one from which they learnt about both other cultures and themselves.

"Everyone you speak to says it's worth it and the cadet's question at the end was - can we come back next year?"

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