1 October 2018
The Arnhem Airborne Wandeltocht March 2018
Cdt L/Cpl Arina Stelmokaite (Strood), aged 14
The Arnhem trip has to be the best camp I have been on since I started cadets almost two years ago. To be completely honest, I do not know why they call it the “Arnhem Trip”, as you actually get to visit many other places in and around Holland.
As well as having some sight-seeing in Arnhem, we also went to Oosterbeck, to see the Airborne War Cemetery, and spent our naafi time at our camp in Harskamp.
The journey there is a lot less daunting than I thought. You would think that 10 hours in a minibus would be the worst time of your life but with the fellow company of other cadets in Squadron and the amazing DJ skills of the instructors, you would actually be surprised to know that we were very entertained the whole journey there.
The first night on this trip was at Gillingham Detachment, where us females took advantage of the lovely plugs in the walls and the comfortable filing cabinets in the corners of the rooms. Despite being a building where the purpose was to train cadets effectively for their respective star levels, it actually did a very good job at accommodating the 12 cadets and 6 instructors that were eager to set off to Dover, for our ferry.
The only difficult part of staying there overnight was the very early 4am start that followed by a very swift packing-up session, where I must say my sleeping bag has never been so aggressively shoved into a bag ever.
Upon arriving at Harskamp Camp, I was utterly baffled. Compared to the British camps I have stayed at in my cadet career, I would’ve never thought that we would have such exquisite accommodation. The beds were 7ft long and had comfortable mattresses and fancy lockers that I couldn’t wait to unpack my kit into. As well as that, the camp itself has a very organised layout, so it was quite easy to navigate around it, even though we had never been there before.
On the third day into this trip, we all set off for sight-seeing around the area. We visited museums that explained the events of the Battle of Arnhem and how the British soldiers became tied into such a marvellous plot. We had a bit of time to explore Arnhem itself and I was quite astonished that there were so many cyclists. So many, in fact, that Arnhem has taken a lot of pride into the fancy bike lanes winding around the town.
However, after such a fun time discovering what Arnhem was like, reality really hit us when we came into the Airborne War Cemetery. The atmosphere was quite calm but not as normal as you would think. Walking past all the gravestones made me realise how precious life was and that there were people going into the war that were around my age too. It really made me appreciate the time I have to live and I knew that these soldiers are people we should really be proud of. Next to one of the headstones, I saw a letter that was written by a soldier to his mum, explaining how he missed her and that life would always be okay without him. I personally am not really an emotional person, but it definitely brought tears to my eyes. I think the cemetery as a whole really did shake everyone and did make time after the visit quite solemn.
Day4. The day of the Arnhem Airborne March. After a few days of singing practice and a morale-boosting journey, we were all ready to undertake the 15k march that we had all come here for. When we walked into the grounds, there were swarms of people everywhere and you could really tell it was a popular event.
We fell in and set off for our march about an hour or so after arriving and I have got to say that I was already worn out after 2K or so. By storming out ahead in the march, we determined to break our record but it did cost a lot of pain, as our feet began to be blessed with multiple different blisters. Overall, the march was fun as we sang songs and chants, as well as inventive creative ways to power up hills and catch up with the team, that you soon realised you were far away from.
It definitely helped bring everyone together more and taught us how to keep morale high, despite the pain and exhaustion you could be going through. The journey back to camp afterwards was a lot calmer than before, as we were all ready to get back to our rooms and enjoy a nice hot shower after a long 3hr 15 mins of walking.
The last day commenced and I was actually really upset that we had to go. I grew so many bonds with the cadets I was travelling with and I didn’t want it to end. The camp felt a lot more like home and I wasn’t ready to give up the amazing lunches we got. I was quite sad that I would not be able to eat another Dutch fruit bun or drink an Optimel Strawberry yoghurt for another year, but it will be my motivation to try and come back to do this march again.
To conclude, this march is one of the best experiences I have lived through and I am very sure that I will be returning next year to earn another pin for my Arnhem March medal. It made me realise how WW2 history is a lot more interesting than I thought and just how grateful I really am for life. As a bonus, I have managed to also build many new friendships that I am sure will last a long time, and will make my cadet career a lot more enjoyable in the foreseeable future.