HMAS Choules held centre stage for Australia Day festivities in Sydney Harbour this weekend.
The ship embarked the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Marie Bashir, Commander Australian Fleet (COMAUSFLT) Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, Australia Day Council representatives and other VIP guests for the special ‘Salute to Australia’ and major harbour festivities, including the 178th running of the Sydney Regatta.
The Governor officially received the impressive ‘Salute to Australia’ – the 21 Gun Salute as it was fired from Bradfield Park in North Sydney, after arriving onboard the ship via 816 Squadron S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter.
A 21 Gun Salute originates from days of old when warships discharged their guns on approach to a foreign port to show her cannons were not loaded. Today, the Salute is used for ceremonial occasions and marks of respect such as Australia Day.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Choules, Commander Ashley Papp, said the ship is honoured to support such an important event for the Australian people.
“Australia Day celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation which the Royal Australian Navy and HMAS Choules is proudly a part of.
“We are a figurehead for the mariner community and as such are pleased to be centre stage in the middle of the Harbour for the celebrations, particularly as we missed out on the International Fleet Review last year due to operations.
“There is no better place to be than on the iconic Sydney Harbour seeing the people of Australia enjoy the day”, he said
The Ship’s Company pitched in to make the day happen, including the flying operations, complex ship manoeuvres in the busy harbour and providing tours.
Able Seaman Ash-Lea Gazzola was thrilled to be a part of the celebrations for the nation’s birthday.
“Everyone was excited to be a part of it, especially introducing our civilian guests to Navy and Choules”, she said.
Recipient of the Australia Day medallion in Choules, Able Seaman Wayne Colquhoun, said his award was humbling but a very proud experience.
“It was a huge surprise; I feel very honoured and lucky."
The day concluded with debarkation of the guests using amphibious watercraft through the ship’s unique welldock.
The Australian Defence Force regularly provides assets and personnel to public events of significance such as Australia Day. This year, support was provided across the county in both regional and metropolitan areas by all three Services.