Coffs Harbour and 725 Squadron reunited

This article has photo gallery Published on ABIS Leo Baumgartner (author and photographer)

Location(s): Coffs Harbour, NSW

Topic(s): Freedom of Entry, 725 Squadron

Two Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters flypast as 725 Squadron gives the eyes right during the Freedom of Entry into Coffs Harbour, NSW. (photo: ABIS Leo Baumgartner)
Two Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters flypast as 725 Squadron gives the eyes right during the Freedom of Entry into Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Hundreds of local residents lined the streets of Coffs Harbour to watch and support officers and sailors from 725 Squadron as they exercised their Freedom of Entry to the coastal city.

The township was treated to a military display the day before Anzac Day as hundreds of men and women marched down Harbour Drive with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and banners flying.

Freedom of Entry is the highest accolade a town or city can bestow upon a military unit. The tradition originated 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.

In modern times, it is a demonstration of the positive links between military units and the communities they represent. 

Commanding Officer 725 Squadron, Commander Stanley Buckham led the parade and was ceremonially challenged by New South Wales Police Local Area Commander Steve Clarke, who granted the right of passage into the township. 

Able Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Courtney Bowkett, who participated in the march, said she was proud of representing the squadron.

“I think it is definitely a highlight in my career, one that I won’t forget and one that I am very proud of,” Able Seaman Bowkett said.

Two MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters conducted a flypast as 725 Squadron gave the eyes right to the Mayor of Coffs Harbour, Councillor Denise Knight, and reviewing officer Deputy Commodore Fleet Air Arm, Captain Grant O'Loughlan. 

The parade ended with a concert performed by the Royal Australian Navy Band Sydney.

Local resident Mrs Sheila Richardson displays her late husband Mr John Richardson's service medals, while at the Freedom of Entry parade into Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Local resident Mrs Sheila Richardson displays her late husband Mr John Richardson's service medals, while at the Freedom of Entry parade into Coffs Harbour, NSW.

725 Squadron marched in the city again the following morning for the Anzac Day Dawn Service which was very special for one particular resident.

Sheila Richardson, 94, was a Woman's Auxiliary Australian Air Force Wireless Operator during the Second World War and her late husband John was an Electrical Maintainer in the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable.

“It's absolutely wonderful to see the Navy marching in our town,” Mrs Richardson said.

“A lot of things have changed since I served in WWII, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the spirit of mateship displayed by our service men and women. 

She was joined by Captain Grant O'Loughlan and Commander Stanley Buckham at the Coffs Harbour Ex-Servicemen's Club for breakfast after the Anzac Day Dawn Service.

“I am humbled by the amazing history that she has shared with us today,” Commander Buckham said.

725 Squadron, which is based in Nowra, was adopted by the New South Wales RSL Sub-Branch of Coffs Harbour and has supported the township in Anzac Memorials since 2015.

Additional imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery:
http://images.navy.gov.au/ S20190960.