For the first time, the crew of HMAS Wollongong have issued a challenge in their namesake city, to exercise the rights of Freedom of Entry.
Twenty-five officers and sailors from the Royal Australian Navy patrol boat, along with the Royal Australian Navy Band and a group of Australian Navy Cadets marched through the main street of Wollongong, in New South Wales, as part of an age-old ceremony on Sunday 27th August 2017.
The granting of ‘Freedom of Entry’ is the highest accolade a town or city can bestow upon a group or individual.
It’s the first time the ship’s company has conducted such an activity; the last time Wollongong visited the city was for her commissioning in June 2007.
In the time-honoured tradition of swords drawn, bayonets fixed, colours flying, drums beating and band playing, the ship’s company made for an impressive sight.
Wollongong Police Commander, Superintendent Stephen Hegarty upon issuing the challenge and inspecting the scroll, granted the crew permission to proceed with the blessing of the people of the City of Wollongong.
Commanding Officer, Wollongong, Lieutenant Commander Scott Wilson said the march was an opportunity to re-establish and strengthen the historical ties that the ship has with the City and its community.
“This is the third HMAS Wollongong, with the first being a Bathurst class corvette launched during the Second World War, in 1941,” he said.
“It’s important that we honour that history and reaffirm our friendship with the local community,” he said.
Since Wollongong (III) commissioned, she has become an important part of Australia’s civil maritime security operations, working closely with other government agencies.
“The sailors who have served on the ship are exceptional; they exhibit exceptional tenacity and professionalism as they go about their jobs to help preserve Australia’s security and sovereignty at home,” Lieutenant Commander Wilson said.
“We are keen to share these achievements with the people of Wollongong.”
The Lord Mayor of Wollongong, Councillor Gordon Bradbery took the parade salute, with reviewing officer, Commander Mine Warfare, Hydrographic, and Patrol Boat Force, Captain Warren Bairstow.
The ceremony originates in medieval times when a city would show its trust in a group of men-at-arms by allowing them to enter their walls without being disarmed.
Nowadays the right is a symbolic mark of honour and support from a city to a military unit.