Birthday battle ensign hoisted in Parramatta

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Anzac (F150), Naval Heritage and History

HMAS Parramatta flies her Battle Ensign at sunset to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Australian White Ensign. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
HMAS Parramatta flies her Battle Ensign at sunset to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Australian White Ensign.

Usually birthdays take a back seat in the middle of a multi-national war-fighting exercise, but the birthday of a Navy and the flag under which she serves is the exception.

HMAS Parramatta acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the Australian White Ensign on 1 March by flying her battle ensign while at sea during Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER.
It was 50 years ago to the day that the Royal Australian Navy changed over from the British White Ensign, which it had been using since the Royal Australian Navy's inception in 1911, to the Australian White Ensign..
The main reason for the change was to distinguish Australian ships from their British counterparts, and the fact that Australia was involved in the Vietnam War at the time while the British were not, which meant that Australian ships were essentially flying a British flag in a conflict that Britain took no part in.
After lobbying by the Government of the day, Royal Assent was given to allow the Australian Navy to introduce its own, unique ensign – a design that remains in place today.
 Commanding Officer Commander Simon Howard said it was important for today’s Navy to acknowledge the milestone.
“The Ensign basically defines who we are as a Navy,” he said.
“It’s immediately recognisable to the Australian public and internationally as being a symbol of the Royal Australian Navy, and as such it serves to give us our identity as members of this organisation.”
More than 17 ships and aircraft are currently participating in the exercise off the Western Australian coast, including New Zealand'sHMNZ Ships Te Kaha and Endeavour, the Spanish Armada’s ESPS Cristobal Colon and Italian frigate ITS Caribiniere.
The exercise is a key milestone for the Royal Australian Navy and one of the final stages of training in Navy’s shift to maintaining adaptive and responsive maritime task groups.
The exercise will certify a Sea Control Task Group in a range of high end warfighting scenarios in the 'blue water' ocean environment.
The generation of an adaptive and responsive maritime task group will provide the Australian Defence Force a persistent forward presence able to operate across the amphibious spectrum of conflict and respond to current and emerging crises threatening Australia and its national interest.