Print this Post

Sunset Ceremony honours Barrie war veterans on the 80th anniversary of D-Day

June 2024

On the evening of 6 June, at Barrie’s Military Heritage Park, along the shore of Kempenfelt Bay, a large crowd gathered for a special Sunset Ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the beginning of the end for the Nazis and the Third Reich.

Codenamed Operation Neptune, the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 was the largest seaborn invasion in the history of war. A massive invasion force of Allied army, navy and air force personnel succeeded in finally breaking through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, leading to the eventual liberation of Europe and the defeat of the Nazi regime eleven months later.

Amongst the Allied soldiers attacking the French coast that day were members of the Grey & Simcoe Foresters (G & SF), a Barrie, Ontario-based militia (army reserve) regiment. Originally formed as an infantry regiment, dating back to 1866, the G & SF were converted to an Armoured Corps regiment in 1942 and after serving on home defence, the active service 1st Battalion was deployed to England in June 1943. A second reserve battalion, formed in 1940, remained in Canada to provide reinforcements.

By the end of 1943, the 1st Battalion was broken up and its members dispersed as reinforcements for other Armoured Corps regiments. It was because of this that Foresters found themselves represented in tank regiments in almost every theatre of WWII.

Post-war, the G & SF remained an Armoured Corps regiment until 1970, when it reverted to an infantry regiment.

Marching onto the makeshift parade square was the G & SF Honour Guard, along with members of the 400 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, an actual D-Day fighting unit, and 2919 Royal Canadian Army Cadets, the G & SF associated cadet unit.

Retired members of the G & SF, veterans and civilians, including Doug Shipley and John Brassard, both Members of Parliament for Barrie, watched from the sidelines, including special guest and G & SF veteran, Brigadier-General (Ret’d) John Hayter, KStJ, CD, who acted as the Reviewing Officer.

Brigadier Hayter joined the G & SF in 1952 at the age of 18 and after undertaking officer training at Camp Borden, was deployed overseas to take part in the Korean War. Returning to Canada after his war service, Brigadier Hayter served in the Regular Force until retiring in 1988 as the Commander of Canada’s military Northern Region – the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory.  He was later appointed the Honorary Colonel of the G & SF until relinquishing the appointment in 2009.

Brigadier Hayter an active volunteer at the local, national and international levels, he also played an important role in the establishment of Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in May 2000.

Addressing the gathered crowd, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Lacroix, Commanding Officer of the G & SF, explained the historical significance of the sunset ceremony.

“The sunset ceremony is in place for after a military unit would have posted their guards for the night, and it allows the soldiers who are not on guard duty for the night to rest peacefully while they wait for the next day’s task,” Lacroix said.

“So the night ceremony is part of a very old tradition where the guard commander would go around checking all the posts, making sure all…are on post and alert. The sound of the bugle calls reminds the soldiers that are going to bed that the camp is secure and safe overnight,” Lacroix added.

As the sun began fading over the horizon, Sergeant (Ret’d) Tony Beresford, a retired member of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers corps, dressed in period WWII battle dress, played Retreat on the bugle. Members of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force lowered lowered the Canadian Forces Ensign, the Canadian Flag and the City of Barrie flag. The names of thirteen members of the G & SF who died during WWII were read aloud.

Lest we forget.

Sources: Barrie hosts nighttime ceremony at Military Heritage Park commemorating 80th anniversary of D-Day | CTV News, Normandy landings – Wikipedia, The Grey and Simcoe Foresters – Barrie’s own infantry regiment – Canadian Military History (militarybruce.com), Sunset ceremony | Royal Roads University, Southshore Community Centre renamed in honour of General John Hayter | City of Barrie, Military service took this brigadier general around the world – Orillia News (orilliamatters.com), John Hayter | NFNM – Never Forgotten Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials (NICMM) – Memorials – Remembrance – Veterans Affairs Canada.

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/sunset-ceremony-honours-barrie-war-veterans-on-the-80th-anniversary-of-d-day/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>