Losing a military colleague on the battlefield resonates strongly with active and retired soldiers and peacekeepers on Remembrance Day, November 11.
It’s no different for Toronto Police Constable Paul Breeze, who spent 12 years with the British military before joining the Service eight years ago.
He did seven years of operational tours in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Sierra Leone, where Special Air Services (SAS) trooper Brad Tinnion was killed in September 2000. They were moving hostages from Geri Bana huts towards a helicopter that was to take them to Freetown -- Sierra Leone’s capital – when they came under fire and Tinnion was hit.
“We tried to save him, but we couldn’t,” recalled Breeze, who, two years ago, was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to mark the ascension to the throne of the second longest-serving monarch in British history.
Captain Lisa Head, who died in 2011 after attempting to defuse hidden explosive devices in Afghanistan, was also a close friend and colleague of Breeze. They attended the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England at the same time and she assumed his role after he left the Army.
“Brad and Lisa were good people whom I knew and served with,” said Breeze. “They made the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t come back. In addition, my grandfather and father served in the military, so you can understand why this day is significant for me.”
Breeze, who was assigned to 52 Division and Traffic Services before joining Homicide a month ago, has played The Last Post for the past eight years at the Service’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony at headquarters.
“I really look forward to this day when I can come and pay tribute to Brad, Lisa and all the fallen officers who paid the ultimate price with their lives,” he added. “They will never be forgotten.”
Chief Bill Blair, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee and Toronto Police Military Veterans Association past president Jack Reid joined retired Staff Sergeant Gord Barrett and William Talbot in laying wreaths.
Barrett and Talbot laid wreaths for Frederick George Topham, who served in the Second World War as a member of the First Parachute Battalion and, later, with the Toronto Police Department.
A medical orderly, who parachuted with his battalion into a strongly defended area east of the Rhine during World War II, Topham – who was Barrett’s great uncle -- was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry. He passed away in 1974.
For the third straight year, the Jarvis Collegiate Choir sang the national anthem and a medley of songs.
Superintendent Hugh Ferguson was the Master of Ceremony.