Freedom of Entry to the City

The Freedom of Entry to the City of Port Melbourne Navy Parade in Bay Street, 1982. Courtesy of Perc White.

The Freedom of Entry to the City of Port Melbourne Navy Parade in Bay Street, 1982. Courtesy of Perc White.

The custom of granting armed forces Freedom of Entry to the City dates from medieval Europe where walled cities could make the movement of armed forces difficult. If the passing troops were deemed untrustworthy, then the city may refuse to provide them with food and shelter. Gaining a city’s trust and gaining freedom of entry was therefore, extremely important in times past.

In the case of the Navy, freedom of entry was usually given in recognition of the defence of sea port cities and towns, and the granting of the Right of Freedom of Entry is the highest compliment a local municipality can bestow on a Naval group.
In Port’s case, this honour was granted to HMAS Lonsdale, in Rouse Street, the Royal Australian Navy’s main shore establishment in the Melbourne area responsible for the administration and training of Naval forces within Victoria.

Invitation flyer to citizens of Port Melbourne to attend the Special Navy Parade on Saturday 21 August 1982. PMHPS Collection.

Invitation flyer to citizens of Port Melbourne to attend the Special Navy Parade on Saturday 21 August 1982. PMHPS Collection.

The photograph (at top) shows a portion of the more than 300 Naval personnel, including a RAN Band, permanent naval forces, RAN Reserve members and Naval Reserve Cadets, on parade outside the Town Hall. This Special Navy Parade, held on Saturday 21 August 1982 (see invitation above), included the City of Port Melbourne, through the mayor, granting to HMAS Lonsdale the right to march through the city’s streets with:

“Swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and flags flying.”

Below, the mayor, Cr Perc White, reviews the Naval ranks as part of the ceremony of presenting HMAS Lonsdale’s commander with a Freedom of Entry to the City of Port Melbourne certificate.

Port Melbourne Mayor, Cr Perc White reviews the Navy Parade in Bay Street. PMHPS Collection

Port Melbourne Mayor, Cr Perc White reviews the Navy Parade in Bay Street. PMHPS Collection

Shortly afterwards, as the men marched back down Bay Street, their new Freedom of Entry was tested as, with their swords drawn, they were confronted by local police constables and forced to present their certificate before they could proceed on their way.

HMAS Lonsdale closed in 1992. The HMAS apartments now occupy the site where the barracks and parade ground stood.

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