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From cadet to colonel during 50 years of service

Burlington Post
May 9, 2007
Hamilton Reservist Calls It A Day After 50 Years Service

Recently, Colonel James Forsyth, CStJ, CD, CA, relinquished the appointment of Honorary Colonel for The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, bringing to a close over 50 years of continuous service in the Canadian Forces Militia and Army Reserve, a milestone that few Canadians have achieved.  Jim is one of a select few who has truly made serving his country and community his life’s work.

Forsyth was born in Hamilton in June 1938, the son of Maurice & Lillian Forsyth. He began his military career in 1952 with 2401 Central Secondary School Cadet Corps in Hamilton.

In 1955, Forsyth qualified as a Master Cadet and attended the National Cadet Camp in Banff, Alberta that summer.

Colonel Forsyth excelled so well as an Army Cadet that in March 1957, at the age of 18, he was asked to join 133 Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, 2401 Corps’ affiliated reserve unit.

He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1959 and promoted to Captain in 1963.  He was promoted Major in 1966 and appointed Officer Commanding 133 Company RCASC, by then part of the newly formed 23 (Hamilton) Service Battalion.

Over his many years, he would faithfully attended summer training camps at the Meaford Tank Range, Camp Borden, Camp Petawawa & Camp Niagara. This was in addition to juggling a challenging 5 year course of study to be a Chartered Accountant and then a career with the Ontario Ministry of Revenue in Hamilton and Mississauga.

In 1972, he successfully completed the Militia Command and Staff Course at Fort Frontenac in Kingston, Ontario.

“With the heavy work and study load for 5 years with my CA course, I am surprised that I was able to actually to be successful in both,’ Forsyth says.  ‘In later years, I looked on my Militia service as part of my civic and volunteer responsibility to the community and Canada.”

In 1970, Forsyth transferred to The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) as its Deputy Commanding Officer. In 1972, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of the RHLI, a position he held until relinquishing it in 1974.

From there, Forsyth served as Senior Staff Officer – Operations and Training SSO Ops & Trg) at Central Militia Area Headquarters (CMA) in Toronto from 1974-1977 and then the same position Hamilton Militia District from 1977-1979.

In 1979, Forsyth returned to 23 (Hamilton) Service Battalion to take command, relinquishing the position in 1982.

In 1983, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and appointed the Commander of Hamilton Militia District from 1983-1987, after having spent the previous year as Senior Staff Officer -Administration at Central Militia Area Headquarters (1982-1983).

In 1987, Forsyth was appointed Senior Staff Officer – Land on the staff of the Chief of Reserves and Cadets at National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) in Ottawa.

In 1989, he was appointed the first Senior Staff Officer – Militia at NDHQ.

In 1992, Colonel Forsyth was appointed the Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of
the RHLI, and in 1993, the Honorary Colonel.

Colonel Forsyth considers among the highlights of his military career being appointed Commanding Officer of the RHLI, one of the best infantry units in Canada, and when he was invited to have dinner at Buckingham Palace with His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Colonel-in-Chief of the RHLI.

Other career highlights include when he was called out in 1977, along with other militia soldiers, to assist civil authorities during a major snowstorm that stuck Southern Ontario.  Forsyth and the men under his command assisted in the situation under police direction in maintaining civil order and conducting rescue operations for people stranded in their cars and houses.  For his exceptional leadership, Colonel Forsyth was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal.

His volunteer and community service work has been and is with St. John Ambulance (Burlington Branch), the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires (Hamilton Division), the Army Cadet League of Canada(Ontario), the Hospitaller Order of St. John (Hamilton Commandery), the XIIIth Regiment Foundation and Reserves 2000, a reserve forces lobby group.

Forsyth was also an organizing member of the Dieppe Veterans’ Memorial Park committee, a monument that pays a long overdue tribute to veterans of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and other Hamilton area veterans who participated in the raid on Dieppe, France in August 1942.

As Honorary Colonel, Colonel Forsyth’s motivations have been for the betterment of the RHLI.  He has been a tireless campaigner for the RHLI, both in Canada and overseas on numerous regimental trips to France, Holland and Belgium for World War II memorial functions.

For his military and community services, Jim has been awarded several medals including the Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (CStJ), the St.John Ambulance Long Service Medal, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Long Service Medal, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires Distinguished Service Medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD) with 3 bars.  The Canadian Forces Decoration is awarded for 12 years service in the Canadian Forces. For each additional 10 years of service, the member is given a bar to be worn with the medal.

Although Colonel Forsyth’s military career in now over, he remains active with the RHLI as a member of the Regimental Senate and Chairman of the XIIIth Regiment Foundation.

Colonel Forsyth recently served as the coordinator and host of the 2008 annual RHLI Dieppe Veterans’ Memorial service held at the Dieppe Veterans’ Memorial Park on the Hamilton beach strip.  Special guest for the ceremony was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As for his civilian career, Colonel Forsyth retired from his job in with the Ontario Ministry of Revenue in 1995 after 33 years service. He and his wife Gwen have lived in Burlington for 41 years, where they raised their two sons, Bruce, a police officer and former 13-year member of the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, and David, an Assistant Film Director in Toronto.

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.

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