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Nijmegen Marches 2019 Recap

Nov 19, 2019
Lee Harrison, Veteran, Peterborough firefighter and Legion member, shares his experience being The Royal Canadian Legion's representative at this year’s International Four Day Nijmegen Marches.
VIP team en route of March Nijmegen Bridge VIP team members of the Canadian Armed Forces Contingent. Lee Harrison is third from the right.

The Royal Canadian Legion was represented at this year’s International Four Day Nijmegen Marches by Lee Harrison, Veteran, Peterborough firefighter and member of Peterborough Legion Branch 52. He joined tens of thousands of participants from all over the world, walking more than 40 km a day.

Lee was very excited about joining the Marches this year, something that has always been on his bucket list.

“I felt extremely honoured and proud to have the opportunity to represent the Legion and Veterans of Canada on this International March,” said Harrison. “I’ve known about the Nijmegen Marches the entire time I was in the Canadian Forces. It is something that I have always wanted to do.”

During the Marches, Lee wrote to us and gave us a glimpse into his incredible experience:

On the first day of the trip we visited the Vimy Ridge War Memorial with close to 200 troops in attendance.

Lee Harrison poses at the Vimy sign at the Vimy Ridge memorial.
Vimy Ridge War Memorial.

A commemorative ceremony was held to honour those lost at Vimy. I placed a wreath on behalf of The Royal Canadian Legion and recited the Act of Remembrance.

This was such a humbling experience. As a soldier, you stand on parade each year and hear those words, but to be the one to recite them on behalf of the soldiers and veterans in a place like Vimy is extremely special. The chance to be there in uniform at Vimy and place the wreath was equally moving. This was a very proud moment in my military career.

Lee Harrison salutes after placing the wreath at the commemorative ceremony at Vimy.Lee Harrison placing a wreath at Vimy on behalf of The Royal Canadian Legion.
Lee Harrison poses in front of the Vimy War Memorial.Lee Harrison at the Vimy Ridge War Memorial.

We also visited the Bergen op Zoom Cemetery where a commemorative service was held. From there we headed to Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery where we were hosted by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 005, the Dutch Branch of The Royal Canadian Legion in Holland.

Groesbeek Cemetery holds 2619 Canadian troops. It’s here where I got to meet someone who I’ve been carrying with me for 25 years.

My Regiment gave each member a Regimental coin. On the back is the name of a Queens Own Rifles' Soldier who was killed in action at some point in Regimental history. The soldier whose name I carried was killed in Holland on February 26, 1945, and buried in Groesbeek Cemetery. I knew this going over and I was hoping I would have the chance to meet him... and I did. He is in plot 10H. RFN George Armstrong Bell, age 35, SN B157584.

I’ve carried the coin for 25 years and it was extremely special to be with him.

Lee Harrison poses at George Armstron Bell's grave stone. Lee's QOR Beret is on top of the stone for the photo so he has his head dress too.Photo of Lee Harrison at George Armstrong Bell 's grave stone, placing his QOR Beret on top for a picture so George can wear his head dress too.

Then the four-day Marches began. It was an incredible experience! 

My VIP Team consisted of three persons from Veteran Affairs Canada, one from the Dutch Embassy in Ottawa, one from Commissionaires Montreal, two Ottawa based RCMP officers, myself from The Royal Canadian Legion Team, Leader L/Col. Mike Watson from the Canadian Armed Forces, team medic Lt Nathalie Dubois and the Attaché for CAF to Holland (plus five other Europe countries) Col. Tim Young .

VIP team picture after receiving the Nijmegen medals. Lee Harrison is pictured in the back row centre.

We couldn’t have had a better group dynamic. They were wonderful people to share this with.

The atmosphere and support of the Dutch communities along all the routes were also incredible.

Days two to four all went well. Our team stayed intact and everyone toughed out the lack of sleep, long days, sore feet, aching backs and empty stomachs to complete the Marches. 

The 2019 Contingent had a 100% success rate each day. And all 175 marchers finished this year too! It does not happen every year. 

Map of the Nijmegen March trail

I was very lucky to have been asked to represent The Royal Canadian Legion at this event and the opportunity to be with the Forces again was great. There were too many highlights to choose just one!

To do the Marches with two friends who I served alongside in Afghanistan was also extremely special. I would do it all again too if given the chance. It was worth all the effort.

Lee Harrison poses with two friends who he served alongside in Afghanistan.Photo of Lee with Major Scott Moody and Sgt. Mike Cheeseman at Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery. Both Scott and Mike served with Lee in Afghanistan (Scott and Lee are from the same Regiment, Queens Own Rifles).


Interested in joining the Nijmegen Marches?

Lee Harrison has some advice for those wishing to participate in the Nijmegen Marches:

Be prepared. Put in your time training. You must rack up the miles walking with your pack. Minimum is 500km but you must do much more to have success. Train with more weight in your pack than you will carry in Nijmegen. Stay healthy, eat well, get your rest.  Be prepared mentally as well. The mental game is the biggest part of having success at Nijmegen. It's a big time commitment to train for this goes on for months prior to deployment for the Marches.

Most of all....ENJOY NIJMEGEN!  It is truly the walk of a lifetime, especially to do it with the Canadian Forces.

Annual opportunity for a Legionnaire to participate in the Nijmegen Marches

Each year, Dominion Command of The Royal Canadian Legion invites Legion Members to apply for an opportunity to participate in the world’s largest walking/marching event held in mid-July in the Nijmegen area of Holland.

An announcement for the 2020 Nijemegen March is expected to be made in December 2019.

Not a Legion member? Join today!


More on the Nijmegen Marches: