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Calling it a day – Barrie reservist serves nearly 50 years

Published in the Barrie Advance
25 May 2007
In September 2006, Lieutenant-Colonel Lorne Williams relinquished his appointment as the Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel for the Grey & Simcoe Foresters (G & SF), capping off a military career that spanned 7 different decades. With a combined total of 47 years of service, Lorne is one of a select few who has truly made serving his country and community his life’s work.
Lorne was born in North Bay in 1927, the son of Cecil and Louise Williams. He began his military career in 1940 when he joined No. 16 (Gateway Lions) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Lorne’s desire was to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he tried to do in 1944, but by this time in World War II, the RCAF wasn’t taking applications anymore due to a surplus of trainees, so he applied to the Army. “I was given 3 choices,” Lorne says, “Infantry, infantry or infantry. So I chose infantry.”

Since he was only 16 at the time, Lorne enlisted as a boy soldier, not becoming a Private until he turned 17. Lorne joined partly with the intention of meeting up with his father Cecil, who at the age of 32, had joined the Royal Regiment of Canada early in the war. Lorne hadn’t seen his father since he went off to fight.

Like most of his generation however, Lorne also joined out of patriotism and a sense of adventure. “At that age, you never thought of getting killed. It was a great adventure”, says Lorne. “Everyone we knew was at war. In most cases, young men couldn’t wait to get into the forces.”

Lorne was too young to be sent overseas, and as the war ended a year later, he did his service in Canada with the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, and for a brief 2 months, the Royal Regiment of Canada with his father, who was back from Europe by this time.

Released from active service in 1945, Lorne went on to other pursuits such as learning the sheet metal trade. However, the army never left Lorne’s heart and on September 27, 1949, he joined the Canadian Army Militia in Barrie as a Gunner with the 45th Anti-Tank Regiment, The Grey & Simcoe Foresters (G & SF).

Over the next 30 years, Lorne rose up through the ranks and saw the regiment change from an artillery regiment to an armoured (tank) regiment and then finally back to infantry. He served in several positions such as Sergeant in-charge of a gun crew (artillery), a Crew Commander and driving & mechanical instructor (armoured) and Squadron Sergeant Major. He also faithfully attended summer training camps at the Meaford Tank Range, Camp Borden, Camp Petawawa, Camp Gagetown & Camp Niagara.

In 1971, Lorne reached the rank of Warrant Officer 1st Class (a rank that the Canadian Forces later re-designated as Chief Warrant Officer) and was appointed the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), the senior non-commissioned member of the regiment.

Lorne served as RSM of The Grey & Simcoe Foresters until retiring in 1979. Among his career highlights was serving in the Hurricane Hazel rescue operations in October 1954, when the Greater Toronto region saw 11 inches of rain fall in 48 hours. Massive flooding resulted in 81 people losing their lives, with the modern day equivalent of $1 billion in damage being done. Lorne recalls wading through freezing, waist deep water as he and other members of the regiment rescued people stranded in their homes along Highway 400.

After leaving the G & SF in 1979, Lorne was commissioned as a Captain and served with No. 2919 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in positions such as Training Officer and Commanding Officer until retiring in 1992.

In 2003, Lorne returned to uniform duty when he was appointed the Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel of The G & SF. During his lengthy career, Lorne earned a total of 7 medals, including the Canadian Forces Decoration, Member of the Order of Military Merit and 2 medals for his war service.

Although his military career is now over, Lorne remains active with The G & SF as a member of the Regimental Senate (a position he’s held since around 1979) and with the Grey & Simcoe Foresters Regimental Association, where he is one of its founding members.

Lorne is also the curator of The G & SF Museum, which operates out of three locations: the Regiment’s former armoury on Mulcaster Street (also the current office of MPP Joe Tascona), the Barrie Armoury at Queen’s Park and the Tommy Holmes, VC, Armoury in Owen Sound.

Lorne currently resides in Barrie with his wife of 60 years, Mary. He is the father of 3 children: Larry, a retired Captain from the Royal Canadian Regiment, Mark, a retired High School teacher and Richard, a small engine worker. He is also a member of the South Simcoe Railway Association.


About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/calling-it-a-day-barrie-reservist-serves-nearly-50-years/

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