20 July 2023

USS Canberra crew to exercise rare ‘Freedom of Entry’ to namesake city

| Andrew McLaughlin
Join the conversation
USS Canberra II

USS Canberra II being led towards Fleet Base East at Garden Island by HMAS Canberra III on the morning of 18 July. Photo: ADF

The crew of one the US Navy’s newest and most advanced ships will visit its namesake city of Canberra this weekend to conduct a traditional ‘Freedom of Entry’.

The new USS Canberra is the only US Navy ship currently named after a foreign city. It is the second US ship to be named after Australia’s capital and after the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra I, which was lost in action in 1942.

The USS Canberra is visiting Australia to be christened at the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Base East at Garden Island in Sydney on Saturday, before the crew visits Canberra on Sunday.

HMAS Canberra I was a heavy cruiser commissioned in July 1928. The Battle of Savo Island was a major naval battle in what is now the Solomon Islands. It took place overnight on 8 and 9 August 1942 when an inferior allied force defended US Marine Corps amphibious landings on the island of Guadalcanal from an attack by a large Japanese force of cruisers and destroyers.

The allied force was caught by surprise; HMAS Canberra was hit 24 times in the first two minutes of the engagement, and she and three US cruisers were severely damaged. While 84 of her crew, including a US Navy radio operator, were killed, US Navy destroyers rescued a large number from the ship the next morning before she sank. Today, a poignant memorial to HMAS Canberra stands beside Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin near the Carillion.

READ ALSO RAAF to celebrate 65 years of the venerable ‘Herc’… with many more to come!

The Royal Australian Navy has had two other vessels named after our capital. The second was one of six Perry/Adelaide-class frigates commissioned in March 1981. She served until November 2005, and was scuttled as a dive wreck off Ocean Grove in Victoria in October 2009.

HMAS Canberra III, a Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), was commissioned in November 2014. Canberra III and Adelaide III are currently in service as heavy amphibious landing vessels, able to embark 1200 troops, tanks and armoured vehicles, amphibious watercraft, and up to 12 helicopters.

The US Navy’s first USS Canberra was a battlecruiser commissioned in 1943 in honour of HMAS Canberra I. That vessel enjoyed a long career and underwent several major upgrades through the latter years of World War II, the 1950s, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and the Vietnam War. She was decommissioned in 1970, and scrapped in 1980.

Apart from her name, the new USS Canberra II has another major link to Australia. The ship is an Independence class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), designed and built by the US subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder, Austal. The Independence class LCS is an unusual trimaran design powered by pump jets instead of propellors, giving it a top speed of more than 40 knots, and an ability to operate in shallow littoral regions.

The USS Canberra II was launched in 2021 in Alabama and christened by then Australian Ambassador to the US, Arthur Sinodinos. Its commissioning in Sydney will be the first time a US Navy vessel has been commissioned in an international port.

Following the commissioning of USS Canberra II on Saturday, 100 members of the ship’s company will travel to Canberra where it will conduct a Freedom of Entry ceremony on Sunday morning. The crew members, accompanied by 100 members of HMAS Canberra III’s crew, will gather at Veteran’s Park on the corner of Bunda Street and Northbourne Avenue for a Welcome to Country ceremony.

READ ALSO Meet the designer behind these iconic figures of Australian war history

From 10 am they will march south along Northbourne Avenue, and turn left into London Circuit. The parade will stop outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on London Circuit where the ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Bobby Barber will be ‘challenged’ by the ACT’s Chief Police Officer Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan, and presented a scroll giving him the right to enter the city. US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will attend the ceremony.

The parade will continue along London Circuit, turn left into Constitution Avenue, and end at the National Convention Centre. The parade should take about 45 minutes.

“The Freedom of Entry ceremony is a wonderful occasion for the community to come out and see the pageantry of the USS Canberra and HMAS Canberra crews parading together,” the ACT’s Commissioner for International Engagement, Brendan Smyth told Region. “I believe this is the first foreign vessel to be given Freedom of Entry to any Australian city.

“The commissioning of USS Canberra in Sydney, and the Freedom of Entry ceremony in Canberra demonstrates the strong partnership and ties between Australia and the US and our respective navies. We understand that both events are a world first.”

After arriving at the National Convention Centre, the crews will be involved in presentations before visiting the National Museum of Australia and attending a ceremony at the HMAS Canberra Memorial next to the Carillion.

The crews will then tour the Australian War Memorial where six US sailors will have their re-enlistment ceremonies in the Eastern Forecourt next to commemorative plaques to HMAS Canberra I and USS Canberra I. They will also attend the sunset Last Post Ceremony.

The Federation Guard is also expected to attend the visit to Canberra, which coincides with Pozieres Day.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
pamelahcollett3:40 pm 21 Jul 23

IPAN ACT (Independent and Peaceful Australian Network) is opposed to the increased militarisation of the Pacific and the AUKUS agreement which integrates Australian military with the USA. We oppose nuclear subs in Australia. We will protest the incursion of the US military which undermines Australian sovereignity and the AUKUS agreement which
includes nuclear submarines at an exorbitant cost. AUKUS is dangerous and does not aid our security.

Will you also protest the incursion of other nation’s military in the region (for example, the Chinese)? Or are all your protests going to be single-issue/one-sided?

Stanleyhistory2:29 pm 21 Jul 23

I’m not honoured, Peter Graves, I’m outraged. Just as the complement of USS Canberra will exercise their freedom to march through our streets, I’ll exercise my freedom to protest against Australia’s membership of both AUKUS and ANZUS. As Catada points out, we have sacrificed our sovereignty again by signing up the ineffective, unduly costly, unfeasible and dangerous AUKUS alliance, and I for one will be out there greeting our visitors with that message. US sailors are welcome guests, but the alliance they represent is stupid and perilous, and a peaceful protest is merited. See you there.

Peter Graves5:38 pm 21 Jul 23

Settle down. The article is about the naming of two naval vessels, following the Battle of Savo Island. That was in World War 2 against the Japanese. The USS Canberra is the only USN vessel named after a foreign city. That’s the honour – not the politics of other commenters here.

We are giving away our sovereignty and painting a target on our backs with the US ”alliance’, especially AUKUS. That $368 Billion for nuclear submarines should be spent on housing, training and employing more nurses and doctors.
If they cared about Australia’s security they would make peace with China and take extensive action the Climate Emergency.
Over a year ago, the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group (ASLCG) said “As ex-service members and experienced security practitioners who have witnessed up-close the devastation of war and crisis, we consider that climate change now represents the greatest threat to the future and security of Australian”
If you don’t listen to the science at least listen to the military experts who are now free to speak the truth.

“they would make peace with China” – clearly you don’t follow the news. Our politicians are working hard to maintain good relations with China. Note that ‘relations’ are a two-way street, and we all know how Chamberlain’s appeasement of Germany turned out.

Ross of Canberra5:10 pm 20 Jul 23

This freedom of entry is redolent of a loss of Australian sovereignty.

Peter Graves9:36 am 20 Jul 23

Thank you for such an extensive coverage of the joint histories of the HMAS Canberra(s) and the USS Canberra(s). It has been a signal honour to the RAN.

As an aside, an Australian officer aboard HMAS Canberra during that battle of Savo Island was then Lieutenant Victor Smith. His long career culminated in his elevation to Admiral in 1970, becoming the first RAN officer to be promoted to this rank.

He was appointed chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, the forerunner to the position of Chief of Defence Force. Admiral Sir Victor Smith retired in November 1975.

As residents of the national capital, Canberra, we are indeed honoured.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.