Fresh legs and tip-top morale for the Nijmegen Marches

The team sets off.

The team sets off.

Staff Sergeant Michelle Carr, Army Air Corps (AAC), shares the experiences of her all-female team, as they take part in the Nijmegen Marches (12 – 19 Jul 14).  The mixed-ranks team won the Best Land Team prize, based on speed, team spirit, morale and general conduct throughout the event.

Having successfully qualified at the RAF Cosford 50-mile test eight weeks before and being awarded 2nd best Army team, we were looking forward to the challenge, albeit a little apprehensively. The march consisted of approximately 46,000 participants, 806 of whom were British military and 369 from the Army (including a team from 9 Regt AAC). Each day teams must cover a set distance within a certain time frame, with two or three designated rest stop areas which had refreshments and medical cover.

Day one

An early start of 0405 hrs wasn’t as bad as we first thought as the atmosphere was amazing from the beginning . It was a tough day as we had 29 miles to tackle but fresh legs and tip-top morale meant the day went as smoothly as can be expected and we finished with a full team and no serious injuries. Blisters and sore feet were here to stay! Along the route we came across a Reservist who had completed the march 39 times and was part of the support team. I asked him for some tips; the advice was to get around as quickly as possible and spend the minimal amount of time in the rest areas (10 – 15 minutes). That is what we did.

Day two

Another very early start but with less distance to cover; 23 miles. A lot of Ibuprofen and blister management was a theme! I have to admit that the team were making my job as team leader very easy; self motivation and determination (or stubbornness) was an attribute of each team member. Towards the 18-mile point it was apparent that the team were feeling the miles they had covered and needed a pick-me-up. We came across a German Team as we entered back in to Nijmegen town and we sang songs to each other back and forth for the rest of the distance (it’s amazing how singing helps, it speeds up the pace and takes your mind off the pain). Once again we finished with a full team.

Day three

It was hinted to me that we were in the running for best Land team (this category was for British Army and the Royal Navy). A slightly later start and a slight hiccup from one of the team meant that we missed our start time. This resulted in us being the VERY last team to leave camp. As we had messed up a little I assumed that the best team prize was out of the window; however, we still felt like we had to make amends, so we really went for it. Ten minutes in each rest stop (as opposed to some teams spending 45–60 minutes) and a quick pace meant that we lost count of how many teams we over-took, and morale was through the roof. That evening at the Team Leaders brief we were awarded the best Land team prize for speed, Morale, team spirit and not to mention that we had still not lost anyone from the team.

Day four

Time for a breather.

Time for a breather

The final and longest day. We had 30 miles to get through having started with extremely sore feet/legs/backs; this was a huge challenge in 36-degree heat. It was made even more difficult due to the sombre mood because of the loss of many Dutch lives on the Malaysian Airlines flight the previous day.

As it was the last day we knew the end was in sight so we kept to our strict timings but we did have to stop more often. At the end of the route despite the nation grieving the atmosphere was amazing and there were local people everywhere playing music and spraying us with water, which was appreciated by all of us.

As the Team Leader the most worrying part of the whole March was the final four miles, this should have been the ultimate march through Nijmegen town centre but the lack of water, heat and sheer distance covered resulted in many service and Cadet personnel showing signs of heat injuries. Although morale was high our team members took it up on themselves to look after the wellbeing of others who were struggling (carry their own packs and individuals’ packs, supplying water and giving encouragement).

Everyone who started the challenge completed it showing self motivation, robustness and determination. I couldn’t have taken a better team:

Maj Claire Curry (HQ AAC)
Lt Susie Finch (7 Regt)
2Lt Steph Cray (1 Regt)
WO2 Ally McIlroy (5 Regt)
SSgt Annie Aspin (5 Regt)
Sgt Clare McMaster (6 Regt)
Sgt Sara Canning (HQ Land)
Cpl Emily Leggett (ATR Pirbright)
Cpl Tanya McIlroy (2 Regt)
AirTpr Katie Carter (4 Regt)
AirTpr Allison Kerr (4 Regt)
SSgt Michelle Carr (HQ AAC)

The group photo.

The group photo.

Find out more about the Four Days Nijmegen Marches at this link

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Army Rock and Pop music mixes with Monster Trucks


Singer Corps of Army Music

Lance Corporal Suzy Pearce Corps of Army Music a singer in the Band of the Army Air Corps

Lance Corporal Suzy Pearce is a singer in the Band of the Army Air Corps, one of the newly formed Rock and Pop Bands of the Corps of Army Music. The Band were recently centre stage along with the monster trucks at this year’s TRUCKMANIA at Beaulieu, where the Army was also showing off some of its vehicles to the public.

TRUCKMANIA! With the Band of the Army Air Corps

Setting up

On Saturday 24 May the Band of the Army Air Corps (Corps of Army Music) travelled down to Beaulieu Motor Museum in Hampshire in order to provide musical support to “Truckmania” alongside other Army recruiting agencies.

The weekend had been long awaited by those drawn to monster trucks, and once we arrived our two vans were dwarfed by these huge vehicles and the deep tyre marks stamped into the ground. But for once it was nice to see these tyres actually on the trucks they were intended for, rather than watching them being flipped and pushed around by the Parachute Regiment during PT back in Colchester…

We were appointed a troop carrying vehicle which was parked on a grassy bank facing the main arena alongside the rest of the Army trucks, and there we began unloading.

Bands are often faced with problems when it comes to outside engagements, the weather being the most obvious, but today the sun was on our side, however, the lack of power was not. The question “Do you need power?” which came as the PA, amps, monitors, drum kit, guitars and keyboards got hauled onto the truck did cause a heavy silence and disbelieving glances throughout the band, but in true Army style a generator was produced from somewhere and we were able to continue unfazed. With the sound check complete we retired back to barracks to relax before the main event.

Band of the Army Air Corps

The Rock and Pop Band of the Army Air Corps, Corps of Army Music, entertaining the crowds at Truckmania 2014

In comes the public

The gates opened at 10am on Sunday and the first truck the public encountered as they walked in was Optimus Prime from Transformers. Although it may not transform, it brought a smile to many an adult and childs face, as did the fancy dress Bubblebee happily posing with families. Even our Band Sergeant Major was eager to get his picture taken in Optimus Prime’s driver’s seat.

Optimus Prime

The Band Sergeant Major with Optimus Prime from The Transformers movie


Back in the Army area, people enjoyed looking at the various trucks and rocket launcher, although a clear favourite was the inflatable assault course which attracted quite a few excitable children…and dads.

One of the main events of the day was the awesome ‘Big Foot’, whose massive tyres effortlessly crushed the scrap cars which had been lined up for sacrifice. The crowd cheered enthusiastically every time Big Foot trampled them further into the ground, although there was a chuckle when one of the (now flat) estate car boot’s slowly opened in an act of defiance towards the end.


Big Foot

Big Foot entertains the crowd at Truckmania 2014

Throughout the day our musical sets were accompanied by revving engines, air horns and the hum of generators around us. The only unwanted sound was the silence of our own power supply when it inconveniently decided to take a break just before our last set. Luckily an engineer was on hand to help us and we began for the final time that day, much to the relief of our Bandmaster and the crowd that had stopped to sit on the grass and listen to us. It was particularly rousing to see the other members of the Army climb on top of their trucks and take a break for a little while to enjoy the music and clap along.

The weather turns nasty

Bank holiday Monday began with high morale at breakfast as the band assessed each others windburn from the day before. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad to play our first set of the day, so we took the time to visit the National Motor Museum which holds over 250 motor vehicles, reflecting the history of the car on the roads and circuits of Britain. One car which particularly caught the eye of visitors was “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” from Ian Fleming’s classic children’s book, complete with the wings folded underneath.

Spectators armed with multi-coloured waterproofs seemed undeterred by the rain and continued to enjoy the activities available. These ranged from Mini Truck World in the Grand Marquee where remote controlled vehicles could be seen in action, to the free dodgems which were also a highlight.

By lunchtime the rain had permanently set in, so the sponsors decided that due to health and safety reasons we were best to pack down and get on our way before the ground became too churned up to leave.

It was unfortunate that we were unable to give further musical support to the other Army stands who were continuing to work hard in Gortex, but we were still pleased with the response we had gained the day before.

The future

It was a great opportunity to participate in such an enthusiastically received event. We were able to demonstrate the new capabilities of the Corps of Army Music to both public and Army alike and we look forward to continuing this at similar events in the future.

Read more CAMUS blogs

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music