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Annual Report 2013-14

Feature articles

Navy celebrates centenary with international review

Photograph of crowds cheering soldiers marching in a military parade in central Sydney.

Sailors of the Royal Australian Navy and other participating nations march through Sydney city as part of the International Fleet Review 2013.

In October 2013, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) celebrated 100 years since first arriving in Sydney Harbour with one of the largest events held on Sydney Harbour since the 2000 Olympics.

The entry of the RAN’s first fleet on 4 October 1913, led by the Indefatigable Class Battlecruiser HMAS Australia, was an event of great significance for a young Australian nation.

Exactly 100 years later, the RAN conducted a fleet entry and ceremonial review presided over by Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce, AC, CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales (Prince Harry).

The week of celebrations included 37 foreign and Australian warships, 16 tall ships from five nations, more than 60 aircraft (including civilian and historic aircraft) flying over 100 individual aircraft sorties, 10 military bands and 8,000 sailors from 19 nations.

A 100-gun salute marked the official start of the ceremonial fleet review on 5 October with the Governor-General, accompanied by Prince Harry, embarked on HMAS Leeuwin. The review coincided with a Salute to Navy, featuring 29 RAN and visiting navy helicopters and a variety of fixed-wing aircraft flying as low as 500 feet (150 metres) over the ships.

That night, a fireworks and lightshow display told the 100-year story of the RAN since its arrival in Sydney Harbour. Called the International Fleet Review Spectacular, it included fireworks launched from seven RAN ships and a choreographed lightshow that was projected simultaneously onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons and the roof of the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

The show drew an estimated one million spectators to Sydney’s harbour and foreshore with a further 2.5 million watching the live national television broadcasts on channels ABC1 and ABC24 and creating a record for ABC TV ratings. In addition, over 2.85 million hits were recorded in 79 countries worldwide on a live YouTube stream of the event. The RAN’s Indigenous Performance Group, Bungaree, performed for the first time on the steps of the Sydney Opera House during this event.

More than a dozen warships were opened to the public over a two-day period at both Garden Island and Barangaroo Wharf, with a total of 50,000 people visiting.

The Combined Navies Parade on 9 October drew an estimated 50,000 people to Sydney’s CBD to watch a contingent of 4,000 officers and sailors from participating warships, military bands and RAN veterans from associations of the ships from 1913 march along Sydney’s George Street. Additional Freedom of Entry parades were staged in Mosman and Parramatta and drew enthusiastic support.