More than 200 Navy members in ceremonial uniforms marched up Bay Street towards the corner of Guilfoyle Avenue, where Commanding Officer Captain John Stavridis answered a traditional challenge from local Police Area Commander before the ship’s company were welcomed into the city.
Once granted entry the ship’s company marched around Guilfoyle Park back towards Double Bay Beach to the beat of the Royal Australian Navy Band.
Exercising a Freedom of Entry is a long-standing custom for naval vessels wishing to proudly enter a city with swords drawn, colours flying and drums beating.
Captain Stavridis said this was only the third Freedom of Entry of his career and his first as the Commanding Officer of a shore establishment.
“Sailing into a city and being granted Freedom of Entry is special but to represent Watson, a fixture in the local community since the 1940s, is truly unique,” Captain Stavridis said.
The 2019 Freedom of Entry marked the fourth parade by representatives of Watson, with the first held in Double Bay in 2001.
“This was the first time Watson has exercised the privilege of Freedom of Entry since 2005 and I am honoured to lead our Navy people into Woollahra”, Captain Stavridis said.
“I hope Woollahra is as proud of Watson’s contribution to serving Australia as we are to be linked to their community.”
Mayor of Woollahra, Councillor Peter M Cavanagh highlighted the important relationship between a Watson and the community in which her ship’s company works.
“We are so grateful for the excellent working relationship we have with HMAS Watson, and proud of its role in defence, peacekeeping missions and in local activities and events including its annual Christmas carols,” Councillor Cavanagh said.
“Thanks to all who joined with us in appreciation for the service men and women based there, and honoured their dedication, commitment and loyalty, Cr Cavanagh said.”
Located at South Head on Sydney Harbour and first commissioned in 1942 as HMAS Radar, Watson has since become Navy’s main maritime warfare training establishment.
Officers and Sailors at Watson train in navigation, ship handling, warfighting tactics and electronic warfare and the establishment also supports Navy people studying at Sydney-based universities.