Freedom of Entry HMAS Arunta
On 29 June 1998 by unanimous resolution, the Alice Springs Town Council granted Freedom of Entry to HMAS Arunta, at that time the first of the new Anzac Class Frigates to be introduced for service into the Royal Australian Navy.
The Freedom scroll was formally presented to the ship’s Captain, Commander Greg Yorke RAN, during Arunta’s commissioning ceremony on 12 December 1998 at Port Melbourne, Victoria.
As her adopted town, Alice Springs is the (symbolic) home port for HMAS Arunta.
Selection of the Arunta name and original motto ‘Conquer or Die’ recognises the ship’s proud history and the ongoing special relationship with the Arrernte Aboriginal people of Central Australia.
HMAS Arunta History
The Arunta name (also spelt Arunda or Aranda) comes from the Arrernte Aboriginal people of Central Australia, the traditional owners of Mparntwe (Alice Springs).
It is the second RAN ship to bear the name. The original HMAS Arunta, commissioned in 1942, was the first of Australia’s Tribal Class Destroyers and was the fastest ship ever built for the RAN at that time.
Arunta became one of the best known RAN ships in World War 2 and was the only Australian-built destroyer to single-handedly sink a Japanese submarine – a feat achieved off Port Moresby within six months of commissioning. In late 1944, during the retaking of the Philippines, Arunta acted as an escort for amphibious units and bombarded enemy positions.
She also took part in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
At the Battle of Surigao Straits, Arunta led the US destroyers KILLEN and BEALE in a night torpedo attack against the Japanese battle line.
Arunta was damaged by Kamikaze aircraft in January 1945 with the loss of two men while supporting landings at Lingayen Gulf, but following temporary repairs the vessel continued to play an active role in the Pacific War.
Arunta was active for some years after the war and in 1955 became one of the first RAN ships to join the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, setting the pattern for RAN and South-East Asian deployments.
Freedom of Entry History
The granting of Freedom of Entry dates back to medieval times when throughout Europe independent companies of armed men were maintained by the various land-owning nobles.
Often there were disputes where the threat of attack and looting were all too real.
Hence whenever armed bodies travelled the countryside they were rarely allowed access within a city’s walled perimeter.
In special circumstances, usually for the mutual protection of related nobles, some bodies of armed men were allowed the special privilege of freedom of entry to a city.
This allowed the military unit to march through a city “with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing, colours flying and in full panoply or regalia”.
In contemporary society the granting of freedom of entry is largely ceremonial, but remains the highest honour a community can bestow upon a military unit.
And so it is with the grant of Freedom of Entry for HMAS Arunta to the Town of Alice Springs.