Flying the Colours for 50 years

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), LSIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney Harbour Bridge

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, HMAS Waterhen

Personnel from HMAS Waterhen conduct Colours on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark the 116th birthday of the Royal Australian Navy and the 50th anniversary of the Australian White Ensign. (photo: LSIS Tom Gibson)
Personnel from HMAS Waterhen conduct Colours on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark the 116th birthday of the Royal Australian Navy and the 50th anniversary of the Australian White Ensign.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an experience in itself, but doing so to raise the Navy's Ensign to fly over the city on the Navy's birthday - that's one to write home about.

Three sailors were given the honour of raising the Australian White Ensign on the Bridge to mark both the flag’s 50th anniversary and the Royal Australian Navy’s 116th birthday on 1 March.

The trio from Sydney base, HMAS Waterhen, described the event as a proud moment in their careers. 

Ship’s Warrant Officer Tim Badger, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain David Biddle and Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics – Personnel Ashleigh John conducted the traditional morning 'Colours' ceremony - sending the flag aloft.

They said the Ensign represented loyalty, courage, service and sacrifice to the men and women who had served and currently serve in the Navy.
Warrant Officer Badger said the Ensign had been an important symbol in his 27 year career, especially while serving far from home.

“I was in Afghanistan embedded in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division a few years ago and there were eight members of the Royal Australian Navy in country,” he said.

“During the one hour period we all managed to get together we ensured we had the Australian White Ensign with us. It provided us with a sense of identity that far from home and made sure that everyone knew the Australian Navy was in country and performing their part.”

Leading Seaman John was part of the commissioning crew of amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide in 2015.

She said the crew worked hard to get the 27,000-tonne warship ready for acceptance into the Navy, and that she would never forget the moment the Ensign was handed to the then Commanding Officer, Captain Paul Mandziy, signifying the ship had commissioned.

“That really was a proud moment and a sign of how much the crew had achieved in the previous two years,” she said.

Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain David Biddle said the Australian White Ensign meant three things to him, the security of the country, the safety of its citizens and the sacrifices made by servicemen and women and their families.

The Australian White Ensign was brought into service on 1 March 1967, with the Australian National Line cargo ship Boonaroo the first to commission under the new flag.

Only commissioned Australian warships and establishments are allowed to display the Ensign. It may be displayed with specific approval and only in strictly controlled circumstances.