The Forces March is based on a march undertaken by men of the legendary Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWII.
Extract from 'PEGASUS BRIDGE' by Stephen E Ambrose:
'In August of 1942, General Gale sent the whole regiment to Devonshire for two months of cliff climbing and other strenuous training. He then decided to march the regiment back to Bulford Camp - some 135 miles! Naturally it became a competition between the companies.
Howard marched up and down the column, urging his men on. He had a walking stick, an old Army one with an inch of brass on the bottom. His company clerk and wireless operator, Corporal Tappenden, offered the Major the use of his bike. He refused, growling "I'm leading my company!" From gripping the stick, his hands grew more blisters than Tappenden's feet. But he kept marching.
D Company got back to base on the evening of the fifth day, marching in at 140 steps to the minute and singing 'Onward Christian Soldiers', loudly. They came in first in the regiment by half a day! Howard had lost only two men out of 120. His stick however was so worn he had to throw it away."
Major Howard's D Company were later selected to spearhead the entire Allied invasion on D-Day. Thanks to their astounding fitness and training, the men achieved their almost impossible objective - to capture the legendary PEGASUS BRIDGE, in under 10 minutes.
This march has become the stuff of legends and inspired us to create
THE FORCES MARCH.
Major John Howard leading his men on a march through Oxford as part of 'Salute the Soldier' day, just a few weeks before they went into battle in the opening minutes of D-Day
"GO TO IT!"
"We started that march as young lads, up for anything. We finished it as men, ready to go to war. I have no doubt that we were the fittest soldiers in the British Army!"
- L/Sgt Raymond 'Titch' Rayner, 22 Plt, D Coy, 2 Oxf & Bucks LI