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Royal Roads hosts Sunset Ceremony to honour military history

April 16, 2015

Victoria – Twenty years ago, the last Sunset Ceremony was held on the grounds of what was then Royal Roads Military College (RRMC).  On April 25, Royal Roads University is honoured to host for the public the traditional military ceremony in recognition of the institutions’ shared legacy of offering life-changing educational experiences.

“Royal Roads University is proud of its history,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Allan Cahoon. “It is important to recognize and celebrate our past in order to better understand who we are, connect it with what we are doing now and build on it in the future. Being able to celebrate a key part of our military past through a Sunset Ceremony reflects this connection.”

While there are variations in nature and scope, the origins of the Sunset Ceremony lie in two evening routines formerly carried out by soldiers garrisoned in the Low Countries of Europe in the 16th century. The first occurred at sunset, when soldiers withdrew into fortified camps and cities and lowered their flags for the night. The second routine followed at dusk, when the night watch was set and rounds were made to check sentries. During this period, drums beat a warning for all to return to barracks, and often the band played tunes, an evening hymn and the national anthem.

The Royal Canadian Navy has been performing the uniquely Canadian Sunset Ceremony since the early 1950s. From 1972 to 1995, RRMC conducted this ceremony annually on the evening prior to the graduation parade.

The public is encouraged to attend the Sunset Ceremony at Royal Roads on April 25. Performances will include elements of the Royal Military College of Canada Pipes and Drums, the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, the United States Air Force Academy’s Drum and Bugle Corps, a fly past by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a naval guard from Maritime Forces Pacific, guns of the 5th (BC) Field Regiment, and members of the Pacific Regional Cadet Support Unit. 

Dave Bindernagel was the last commandant of RRMC and is chair of Sunset Ceremony organizing committee. “The Sunset Ceremony is designed to visually celebrate the rich 55-year military heritage that Royal Roads University inherited, acknowledging that for the past 20 years, RRU has welcomed that heritage and has continued the excellence in leadership, education and learning,” says Bindernagel, who is also an ex-cadet.  

The Sunset Ceremony is a collaboration between the Vancouver Island Ex-Cadets Club and Royal Roads University. It kicks off the university’s 75 Years of Changing Lives celebrations, which include a Global Alumni Celebration weekend, the Honorary Degree Leadership Symposium and the President’s Gala. 

The Sunset Ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 25, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the former parade square below Hatley Castle. For more information, visit royalroads.ca/75.