The anticipation and excitement in the air was palpable on November 27 as Townsville locals awaited the start of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) Freedom of Entry parade.
Rumours had circulated that a beach landing would start proceedings and the crowd had their cameras ready.
At approximately 8:40am two Zodiacs (inflatable boats) landed and an excited murmur went through the crowd.
Four snipers walked slowly up the beach, their ghillie suits silhouetted against the ocean backdrop as they did a ceremonial securing of the area for the Battalion to form up.
This year marks 50 years since 2 RAR was first granted Freedom of Entry to the city on March 18, 1971, an event that occurred as the battalion was serving on its second tour of South Vietnam. 2 RAR first exercised its right to enter the city on the October 15, 1971, a few months after troops returned home from Vietnam.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Mark Tutto, said exercising Freedom of Entry is a significant honour for the Battalion.
“The granting of Freedom of Entry is a tradition with medieval origins and is the highest accolade a city can bestow on a military unit,” Lieutenant Colonel Tutton said.
“It is a mark of trust and confidence for citizens to allow a formed body of armed soldiers to enter a city and we are honoured to have that relationship with the people of Townsville.
“We are part of the local community and events like this Freedom of Entry march is just one way to help strengthen the ties between our soldiers and the community.”
Snipers from 2 RAR conduct a beach landing at The Strand in Townsville, prior to the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom of Entry to the city. Photo: Corporal Jesse Kane
A replica of the original certificate from 2 RAR’s first Freedom of Entry was presented in response to a ceremonial challenge by Townsville District Commander, Queensland Police Service Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon along the route.
This year veterans from the 2 RAR and 2/4 RAR Associations were invited to join the march after the challenge. One of those veterans, Rod Bathe, carried the Regimental colours on the first Freedom of Entry parade in 1971 and was grateful to be able to be part of the 50th anniversary parade.
“You look at the lads on parade now and they’re still the same as they were when I was serving,” Mr. Bathe said.
“They’re still a dedicated group of people. It was very special to join the parade this year and to see the strong support from the community.”