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  Sunset Ceremony

Photographs by Charles Melnick, with text by Paul Yanko

The RCMP's Sunset Retreat Ceremony has its basis in 19th century British military tradition.

In those days, the military "tattoo" was an evening drum or bugle signal used to recall the soldiers to their post.

Each night, a lone drummer would be sent into the streets of town to beat out the tattoo. It was the signal for tavern owners to close down for the night, and for troops to return to their base. (The word "tattoo" is derived from the Dutch word "taptoe", which means, literally, to "close the tap".)

After the tattoo, the post's flag was lowered in a ceremony marking the end of another day.

This tradition is celebrated by RCMP Depot Division in Regina every Tuesday evening during summer months, albeit with a few entertaining enhancements.

The evening begins with a performance by the RCMP Cadet Choir. Cadets wearing the force's trademark Scarlet Tunic then march four abreast into the parade square led by a handful of pipers and drummers. After the Canadian national anthem, the cadets perform a precision marching drill. Their patterns are so coordinated, and they change so fluidly, you may feel as though you're looking through a kaleidoscope. Then, to the simple beat of a lone drummer, the color party approaches the flagpole. The retreat is played by a lone trumpeter as the flag is lowered.

A solitary piper performs while the flag is folded, and the color party then marches back to the parade square. Out of respect to Queen Elizabeth II, the honorary commissioner of the RCMP, God Save the Queen is sung to close the ceremony.

Stay tuned for news about the grand opening of the RCMP Heritage Centre in summer 2007.

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