By Max Davies
FOR the first time in 36 years, Broadford’s main street was filled with military personnel, equipment and vehicles as part of the School of Armour Freedom of Entry Parade.
Thousands of people lined High Street on Sunday to witness the well-drilled spectacle, with many in the crowd applauding the soldiers for their service as the procession travelled north to Memorial Park for an official ceremony.
This year’s event acknowledged the 82nd anniversary of the School of Armour’s establishment in Puckapunyal, a military base in the Mitchell Shire.
Freedom of Entry is a prestigious military tradition, where forces were granted permission to enter a township or precinct by a city marshal – or in Broadford’s case, a senior police officer.
If the authority of the time wished to honour troops, they would permit their entry, allowing swords to be drawn, drums beating and colours flying, signifying mutual trust.
School of Armour commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Shepherd said the event was ‘awesome’ and was proud to be able to host the parade.
“It was a great honour to be able to do that. This is the first time in almost 40 years that we’ve been able to do this activity and from the amount of people that turned out from the community and even from a bit further afield, it was a great opportunity,” he said.
“It was really pleasing to see the soldiers and that many armoured fighting vehicles on a parade.”
The parade required considerable effort from the School of Armour in Puckapunyal, as vehicles and uniforms were meticulously prepared in the months leading up to Sunday’s event.
“I felt super proud of the team, having that amount of vehicles and people, as well as the band and the proper ceremony, I couldn’t have been prouder of the army team,” Lieutenant Colonel Shepherd said.
“We brought together the plan that brought the council and the School of Armour together and planned out the route and how to get all the vehicles here, and then storing them with weapons, sabres, and people, so it was quite a large logistical effort to achieve that.
“For us it was just a ‘quick weekend job’ and then back into training, so the flexibility and the versatility of the people that make up the School of Armour is really impressive.”
Mitchell Shire Mayor Fiona Stevens said she was also proud to have been part of the event.
“Not just as the mayor, as the representative of the Broadford community, but also … being a Broadford local puts a high dimension on the proud involvement I’ve had today that sits beside the role of the mayor, so very proud for both reasons,” she said.
As mayor, Cr Stevens was escorted through the parade and had the chance to greet many of the soldiers that marched with the vehicles, as well as take a brief ride in one of the armoured vehicles on show.
“The community was just brilliant, showing respect for our connection to the military and the trouble they’ve gone to,” she said.
“It’s the call of the army as to when they would like to exercise the right [again], we have given them the right to exercise it whenever they choose to, so hopefully it won’t be another 40 years.”
Military vehicles parked at Memorial Park after the parade, allowing hundreds of people to inspect them and speak to soldiers, as well enjoy a barbecue by Broadford Returned Services League.