The March during the Second World War, 1940 - 1945
The 1940 Vierdaagse
The 1940 Vierdaagse was due to take place on 23–26 July. Given the disruption in communications and general uncertainty caused by the German invasion of May 1940, the NBVLO considered moving the event to Utrecht or Breda. This was badly received in Nijmegen, where protesters marched to the mayor’s office. On 16 June the March was cancelled altogether, the next official Vierdaagse not taking place until 1946.
Programme for cancelled official 1940 march.
The 1940 Emergency (Nood) Vierdaagse
The cross is of silvered white metal and has a width of 15 mm. It was made by Koninklijke Begeer.
After the cancellation of the official 1940 march, the Nijmeegsche Wandel Verbond (NWV), a local walking club, organised an emergency (Nood in Dutch) Four Days March from Thursday 15 to Sunday 18 August 1940. Each day had a different route starting and finishing in Nijmegen. All stayed south of the River Waal, since Dutch engineers had blown both the road and railway bridges on the morning of 10 May before the invading Germans arrived. The first two days saw evening walks of 15 and 20km, Saturday’s 25km starting at noon. Sunday was an all day event, the 30km route finishing in the Goffert Stadium. Here, in front of several thousand spectators, others took part in various sports including football and athletics, all proceeds going to war victims.
At the Goffert Stadium on the final day of the Nood Vierdaagse.
Left: March Leader Major Breunese (in uniform) flanked by the Mayor of Nijmegen (with glasses) and the NBVLO delegate Mr van Wayenburg.
Right: Walkers enter the Stadium. In a speech to the crowd, Breunese sounded a note of defiance at the occupation when he declared that the "Nood Vierdaagse had preserved the right to hold this international sports event". [De Gelderlander]
About 1,000 walkers took part in each day’s march, many coming from elsewhere in the Netherlands. This rose to over 2,000 on Sunday. This was a good turnout bearing in mind that the official 1939 Vierdaagse had 3,800 participants. The Sunday total included 700 from Rotterdam. The NWV had agreed they could walk the first three days locally.
The new German occupiers permitted the march even though it was a national event. They hoped the ‘Aryan’ Dutch could be won over to the new Reich. However, the organisers had to abide by certain restrictions. The Dutch national flag was not permitted, although from the second day’s march flags from local waking clubs were allowed. Dutch soldiers taking part could not appear in uniform and had to be careful not appear as recognisable military groups.
After the war, suggestions were made that participation in the Nood Vierdaagse should qualify for the official Vierdaagse cross. This was rejected, as one newspaper put it, “Ninety kilometres are not 220!” 220 kilometres (4X55km) was the maximum official Vierdaagse distance in those days.
1941 - 1945
In 1941 the NBVLO planned a vierdaagse based in Nijmegen between 22 to 25 July. Preparation included publication of the official rules, which forbade any political display, including by way of uniforms, flags, songs or badges. In spite of this, the march was banned by the German authorities.
As the war progressed the occupiers became increasingly unwilling to accept events that expressed Dutch culture and could be a focus for resistance.
Left: These are the regulations for the planned 1941 March.
The complete Regulations for the planned 1941 March can be seen here:
(With thanks to Marc Poelen for supplying photo)
In spite of the ban of the NBVLO march, two Nijmegen walking clubs, the men’s ‘Double [Headed] Eagles’ Dubbele Adelaars) and the women’s ‘Blue Blouses’ (De Blauwvosjes) organised their own informal Vierdaagse from 22 to 25 July, 1941 covering a total distance of 120 km. About 60 walkers took part. The low attendance was partly due to concern that the anti-Nazi stance of some of the organisers could have repercussions for both participants and their families. No medals were awarded, although each successful walker received a certificate. De Blauwvosjes also commemorated the event with an engraved spoon.
De Blauwvosjes commemorated the 1941 event with a spoon, engraved with the inscription, 'BLAUWVOSJES MARSCH 1941'.
Left: The participants of the 1941 Vierdaagse. Their placard translates as "We walked the 4 daagsche anyway". The low key nature of the event is confirmed by the absence of walking club uniforms. [De Wereld Wandelt]
Right: De Blauwvosjes during safer times. A group at the 1937 Vierdaagse. [De Wereld Wandelt]
[With thanks to Theo Phoelich for supplying photos of Mrs Ligtvoet's certificate and the tile. The photo of Mr Vigtvoet's certificate is taken from De Wereld Wandelt]
These certificates for the 1941 march were presented to Mr (Heer) and Miss (Mejuffrouw) Jan Ligtvoet from the Hague. They belonged to the First Hague Roman Catholic Walking Association, (Eerste Haagsche Rooms Katholieke Wandel Vereniging).
Left: This contemporary tile may be a souvenir of the 1941 march.
The 1941 event was the last organised four day march in Nijmegen during the war. In 1942 a few individuals walked their own ‘Vierdaagse’, but no groups.
Oppression by the Nazi occupiers increased as the tide of war turned against them. This culminated in May 1943 when the death penalty was introduced for those who took part in unauthorised gatherings, including walking and other sports events.
Evening (Avond) Vierdaagse
After the 1940 Nood Vierdaagse it became clear that such large national events would either be banned or, at the very least, face severe restrictions.
A number of walking clubs across the Netherlands therefore organised walking events over four consecutive evenings (avond vierdaagsen), with distances of between 5 and 15km each evening. These combined a degree of defiance (‘if four-day walks are forbidden, we will hold four-night walks’) with the need not to be too provocative. Small scale and less formal local events avoided the kind of major national gathering that could face a ban. These events were held in a number of Dutch towns in 1940 and 1941, after which even tighter restrictions by the Nazis meant that no other organised events could take place during the war.
Evening Vierdaagse walks started again after 1945 and are now regularly held across the Netherlands by KNBLO and other organisations. They are particularly popular with children.
The Nijmeegsche Wandel Verbond (NWV), who organised the 1940 Nood event, established an Evening Four Day Walk in Nijmegen in 1950 and awarded a medal to successful walkers. It closely followed the design of the 1940 Nood March – the medal shown here being for the fifth participation.
Like the Nood Cross, this was of silvered white metal, 15 mm wide and was made by Koninklijke Begeer.
Nijmegen during the 1940-1945 War
A general history of the City of Nijmegen during the war years is included at: