Despite the heat and humidity of a Top End storm brewing, personnel from RAAF Base Darwin on October 9 exercised the base’s right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Darwin.

With swords drawn, rifles slung, drums beating and colours flying, the parade through the city commemorated Air Force’s centenary and more than 80 years of close ties between the base and the people of Darwin.

RAAF Base Darwin was granted Freedom of Entry to the city on June 7, 1966, and this year’s parade was only the second time that right has been exercised.

No. 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit, No. 13 Squadron, and No. 2 Security Forces Squadron personnel paraded their squadron standards in front of the crowd.

The granting of Freedom of Entry is the highest accolade a town or city can bestow on a military unit in recognition of its exceptional service to the local community.

According to medieval tradition, giving permission to a formed body of armed personnel to freely enter a city is a mark of the high trust and confidence the citizens have in that formed body.

As part of the tradition, the parade was stopped and ‘challenged’ in the heart of the CBD, just off Smith Street Mall, by a senior city official before being granted the right to pass.

Warrant Officer Graham Schilling, of No. 452 Squadron Headquarters, was responsible for marching forward and presenting a scroll issued by Darwin council in 1966 to declare RAAF Base Darwin’s right to Freedom of Entry.

Continuing down Knuckey Street towards the cenotaph, the parade was reviewed by the Northern Territory Administrator Vicki O’Halloran, who was dressed in her honorary air commodore uniform, and the Lord Mayor of Darwin Kon Vatskalis.

Speaking before the parade, Senior ADF officer of RAAF Base Darwin and Commanding Officer No. 13 (City of Darwin) Squadron, Wing Commander Andrew Anthony, said he appreciated the local community’s ongoing support and felt proud to be leading the march. 

“We get a level of support from the community in Darwin that we seldom see elsewhere,” Wing Commander Anthony said.

“We really do appreciate the support we get from the community – it’s a proud moment for the members of RAAF Base Darwin to march through the city and show our gratitude to the people of Darwin for everything they do for us.

“What makes me so proud is to have such a dedicated group of people working on the base who are committed to supporting the Australian people, Air Force’s missions, and everything that we do here in the Top End.

“My special thanks to the Australian Air Force Cadets drummers – we’re very grateful to have those junior folk marching with us.”

More photos can be viewed on the Defence image gallery.