Freedom of Entry

During medieval times, fortress walls afforded cities protection from attacks. The citizens of walled cities refused to allow entry to armed groups, unless they were sure the troops would not attack.

Denial of entry caused hardship to troops ‘on the march’. Long detours were often necessary to secure food and supplies. Troops soon saw the benefits of establishing good relations.  Freedom of Entry was a privilege not easily won but highly prized.

Freedom of the City was usually granted to naval units in recognition of the defence of seaport cities and towns. Many vessels in the RAN fleet carry the names of land-locked centres and the honour includes several of those as well.

The Freedom of Entry ceremony centres on a procession that begins at a suitable staging point within the town or city. The Navy unit marches to the staging point to meet the official party and the Mayor (or a similar representative).

The mayor inspects the parade and reads and presents an ornate scroll authorising the Freedom of Entry. The commanding officer of the unit usually delivers a short acceptance address and a scroll party takes custody of the scroll. A colour party takes the Australian white ensign into the staging area where it is uncased. The unit then exercises its right of Freedom of Entry into the town or city. The unit is usually armed with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, colours flying, drums beating and band playing.

At a specified position, the parade halts and a senior member of the local Police force issues a challenge. The unit’s commanding officer responds and presents the scroll granting Freedom of Entry. After inspecting the scroll, the challenging officer acknowledges the unit’s privilege and allows entry. The unit continues the procession through the city, where it passes, if possible, the local war memorial and the town hall. The mayor takes the salute. On completion, the unit returns to the staging point and disperses.

The unit holds and displays the scroll granting Freedom of Entry in a prominent place in the ship, squadron, establishment or unit.