The small crew of patrol boat HMAS Maitland made a big impact in their namesake city recently, exercising Freedom of Entry and opening their vessel to visitors.
On 21 October the ship’s company marched through the streets of the Hunter Valley town, and the next day opened the hatches to hundreds of enthusiastic onlookers whilst in the port of Newcastle.
In a time honoured tradition, 21 officers and sailors marched through central Maitland to be challenged by Inspector Peter Vromans of the New South Wales Police, Central Hunter Local Area Command.
The challenge marked a historic return after Maitland commissioned in Newcastle in September 2006, and were first granted Freedom of Entry to the city the following day, the patrol boat has not returned since.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Johnathon Little said the crew were very proud of their connection to the city.
“Due to the vast distances and our area of operations, predominately in northern Australian waters, it is a rare occasion to visit this far south,” he said.
“Maitland (I) was a naval depot established in Newcastle in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War.
“The Navy has had a long and proud association with the City of Maitland and it’s been an honour to return to our roots and meet the community for which we bear their name.”
City Mayor, Councillor Loretta Baker said the event was important for a range of reasons.
“Allowing an armed service or individual unit to exercise their right to Freedom of Entry is a huge honour,” she said.
“It’s one way we can show how grateful we are to the men and women serving in Maitland for their service to our country.”
Maitland and 12 other Armidale class and two Cape class patrol boats are Navy's principal contribution to the nation's fisheries protection, immigration, customs and drug law enforcement operations. The boat has a range of 3,000 nautical miles at 12 knots and a maximum speed of about 25 knots.
The concept of Freedom of Entry to the City goes back to medieval times when there were disputes between land-owning nobles and armed bodies were therefore rarely admitted into cities. However, in special cases, they were given freedom to enter, signifying friendship and often the expectation that the armed body would assist in the defence of the city.