City celebrates HMAS Ararat visit

The crew of HMAS Ararat celebrated 75 years of association with its city namesake by exercising its right to Freedom of Entry to Ararat, Victoria recently.

It was the first time the city had granted Freedom of Entry to Ararat (II) and despite a cold and cloudy day the locals turned out in their hundreds to give a warm welcome to the Darwin-based crew.

Commanding Officer Ararat (II), Lieutenant Commander Fiona Simmonds, said the officers and sailors were honoured to be part of the vessel’s history and proud to tell the story of her career representing the people of Ararat and Australia with distinction.

“She is a fine boat and a hardworking, professional crew that has served Australia well,” Lieutenant Commander Simmonds said.

“All of ship’s company are excited to thank the city that has been so kind to us over so many years.”

Ararat Rural City Council Mayor, Gwenda Allgood, said granting permission to a body of armed men and women to enter the city was a mark of trust and confidence.

“It is the highest accolade a city can bestow upon a group, and it’s not something that is readily won or lightly given more today than it was centuries ago,” Mayor Allgood said.

“This was a rare opportunity to see a Freedom of Entry ceremony and a piece of Ararat history that our community came along and supported.”

It is the second time this year that Ararat has hosted the Armidale class Patrol Boat crew, which commemorated Anzac Day on April 25 with the city as well.

The march was Lieutenant Commander Simmonds last event as Commanding Officer of Ararat (II).

The Royal Australian Navy has had a proud association with the city of Ararat and its people for 75 years.

That association began on 16 June 1943 when the Navy commissioned the first vessel to carry the city’s name, HMAS Ararat (I).

Ararat (I) was one of 60 Australian minesweepers built during Second World War.

Ararat (II) is an Armidale-class Patrol Boat and the second Navy vessel to carry the name. It commissioned on 10 November 2006 and is still in service, based in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Ararat and her 11 sister Armidale-class Patrol Boats are Navy’s principal contribution to Operation RESOLUTE, the whole-of-Government effort to protect Australia’s borders and offshore maritime interests.

The badge design of Ararat (II) is based on the early 1850 gold mining and present day commercial agriculture of Ararat and the surrounding district, in particular the wine industry.

The grapes represent the wine industry while the pick and spade are symbolic of the tools used in goldmining. The green background represents the green fertile pastoral land of Ararat and the surrounding district.

The Freedom of Entry tradition began in medieval times when a city would show its trust in a group of men-at-arms by allowing them to enter their walls without being disarmed.

Nowadays, the right of Freedom of Entry is a symbolic mark of honor and support from a city to a military unit.

At a pre-determined position, the march is halted and a challenge issued by a senior official from the city. At this juncture the unit’s commanding officer responds and presents for inspection a scroll granting Freedom of Entry. After inspecting the scroll the challenging official acknowledges the unit’s right and permits it to pass.