Photographs by Charles Melnick, with text by Paul
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
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
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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