HUNDREDS of people crowded into Nowra on Saturday morning to watch the navy celebrate its 65th anniversary of operation in the Shoalhaven.
More than 1000 officers and sailors paraded up Junction Street in the Freedom of Entry march.
The event is held to mark special occasions and the last time it was celebrated was 2008 for the navy’s 60th anniversary.
With swords drawn, bayonets fixed, bands playing and colours flying, the parade of personnel from Albatross and HMAS Creswell stepped off at the Nowra Showground before proceeding along Junction Street to Rauch Park. There Albatross Commanding Officer, Captain Gordon Andrew, was symbolically challenged by Acting Shoalhaven Local Area Commander, Superintendent Paul Condon.
The challenge was made to prove the navy’s entitlement to march through the Shoalhaven.
The tradition of Freedom of Entry dates back to medieval times when armed bodies were rarely admitted into other cities.
This honour is now conferred in recognition of trust and friendship between citizens and military personnel.
A helicopter fly-past by the navy’s Fleet Air Arm was a highlight of the event said several spectators and certainly sent cameras clicking.
Captain Andrew said it was a proud day for the base, full of tradition.
“The granting of Freedom of Entry is the highest honour a city can bestow on the Royal Australian Navy,” he said.
“Through the parade, HMAS Albatross reaffirmed our strong relationship with the great City of Shoalhaven, while celebrating our history and active participation in the local community.
“It is 65 years since HMAS Albatross was commissioned as the navy’s sole air station.
“The navy is proud of our links to the South Coast. This is where many of us live, work and raise families.
“Our 65th anniversary is a significant occasion, and we are pleased to share some of our history and traditions as we celebrate this milestone,” Captain Gordon said.
• More parade photos are on page 2.