When 700 Australian Defence Force members from HMAS Cerberus marched through Main Street, Hastings, Victoria on Saturday, they weren't just re-enacting a tradition; they were acknowledging a shared sense of community and history reaching back 95 years to when sailors first started training in the area at Flinders Naval Base.
With the ship's company dressed in ceremonial whites, Cerberus exercised its right of Freedom of Entry to the City of Hastings. The tradition of granting Freedom of Entry to armed groups dates back to medieval times, only granted when the city or township was sure they could trust those requesting entry.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater, said he felt honoured to lead his Ship's Company through the township of Hastings with swords drawn, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying.
"Today is a very special day for Cerberus. Navy has had ties to this community for 95 years and today recognises the relationship between the Shire, the community of the Mornington Peninsula and Cerberus," Captain Bowater said.
"Cerberus is a Tri-Service training establishment and today I'm particularly proud to march with not just my sailors, but with our soldiers, airmen and airwomen."
A Royal Australian Navy S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter added flair to the parade by conducting a flypast for the occasion. The Seahawk landed on the Foreshore after the parade to be viewed and for the public to speak with the crew.
Pilot, Lieutenant Jordan Taylor, was happy to be part of the ceremony, having grown up in nearby Balnarring.
"I've had some pretty unique experiences while serving in the Royal Australian Navy, but there's definitely something that makes you stand a little taller and feel a little prouder when you do something for your hometown," Lieutenant Taylor said.
This year, Cerberus has celebrated a Year of Family and Community, dedicating the year to strengthening relationships with the local community and the families of serving members.
The Freedom of Entry parade was a tribute to community kinship, allowing the men and women of Cerberus to show their respect and to receive it in return.
Granting Freedom of Entry is the highest accolade a town or city can bestow upon a group.