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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



19 September 2019

A group of 22 Cadets and Adult Volunteers from the 2nd (Northern Ireland) battalion ACF travelled to the Netherlands last week to take part in the annual Oosterbeek Airborne March.  This event is the world’s largest one day marching event and over 32,000 people took part alongside the Cadets last weekend.  The March is a commemoration to the Battle of Arnhem and Operation Market Garden which took place 75 years ago this week.

Before taking part in the Airborne March the group spent a day conducting a battlefield tour around Arnhem and the surrounding areas starting at the John Frost Bridge - the famous Bridge Too Far where Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem focused on 75 years ago.  From the Bridge the group travelled to where the 1st Airborne Division Drop zones were located in nearby Oosterbeek - nearby for us by minibus maybe but not so close for those paratroopers who advanced on foot in 1944! The former HQ building is now the brilliant Airborne Museum where the group met many of the other ACF and CCF units from across the UK who were also taking part in the Airborne March.

Next stop was to the Overloon War Museum near Nijmegen. The Battle for Overloon is often known as the forgotten battle but due to its location it was crucial in the Allies efforts to cross the Rhine and push into Germany after the failure of Market Garden. The museum is truly out of this world and we had a brilliant guided tour of it and the kit and equipment displayed. It also poignantly told the story of how the war began and of those who suffered so badly under occupation.  

The next morning the weather was looking just right for the March.  After a very poignant minutes Silence was observed at 11.00am the March commenced with a parade though the town of Oosterbeek before leading us out around the battlegrounds of 1944.  15km's later (though with the parade start and finish it was really 22km!) and some very heavy rain showers later all the Cadets and Staff successfully finished the March all in good shape apart from some tired feet.

The March was an amazing experience to be part of and such a warm welcome was given by the people of Arnhem and Oosterbeek as the group walked the route.  It was also an honour to march past the Veterans present and to be the first ACF group from Northern Ireland in recent memory to attend and take part in this amazing event.  The group is very proud of their medals and trophies for completing the event and especially as it was a special event where the Cadets and Adults worked together as a team to achieve – it may not be the biggest trophy we have ever won but by far it is our proudest.

Before leaving Arnhem for home the group visited the Oosterbeek War Graves Cemetery. 1684 Commonwealth Servicemen are buried in the cemetery including 39 Irish Guardsmen.  As always it is important to visit these locations and pay our respects as that is really what the Pegasus Venture trip was all about and the Airborne March is in itself an act of remembrance.  Each Cadet was given a poppy cross to place on the grave of a fallen serviceman. Many chose Irish Guardsmen due to their connection as Mini Micks but others chose those with the same surname or one of the many unknown soldiers. The group held a short act of remembrance where our youngest Cadet Emma Smallwood laid the wreath on behalf of everyone on the trip.