The Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Parramatta sails past the Sydney Opera House yesterday for the weekend's international celebrations.
WHEN the Royal Australian Navy sailed its fledgling fleet into Sydney Harbour on October 4, 1913, seven ships manned by more than 2400 officers dazzled thousands of spectators on the water's edge.
Led by HMAS Australia, the country's first navy arrived in the early morning in a long grey line, appearing one by one from the misty sea air.
Exactly 100 years later an even grander vision played out on the harbour as 37 warships made their way through the heads yesterday and joined 16 tall ships in Sydney's sun for the once-in-a-century International Fleet Review.
The event celebrates Australia's independence and commemorates the sacrifice of personnel lost at sea, as the nation hosts ships from 17 countries, including the US, China, France and Japan. The review spectacular will also feature more than 60 aircraft, 10 military bands, 8000 sailors and a fireworks display on Sydney Harbour.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce will be joined today by Prince Harry, who arrived in Sydney last night, on board the HMAS Leeuwin. The pair will review the international fleet and receive a 100-gun salute as they sail around the harbour.
Ms Bryce, representing Australia's head of state, the Queen, received a 21-gun salute yesterday when she officially welcomed the warships, and the helicopter display team and air force Roulettes were on display.
The event has been a case of history repeating itself for 92-year-old Jack Langrell, whose father, John, was aboard HMAS Australia 100 years ago. "It made me very proud, naturally," he told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "I just pictured the battleship (HMAS Australia) coming around Bradleys Head. I've got a great love, respect and admiration for the navy."
Jack is one of the few remaining sons and daughters of the RAN's first officers and sailors and has had navy in his blood since the day he was born at the Royal Australian Naval College in Jervis Bay. He watched the warships arrive from Garden Island, where his father became the sergeant for the Naval Dockyard Police.
While Jack and his children and grandchildren marked yesterday as a momentous occasion, he said his father had not made a big deal of the 1913 event. "It was just one of those things he would have accepted as a little bit odd but more or less normal. But Dad loved the navy, it's a great life."
Jack joined the RAN at 16 as a canteen assistant and was serving on HMAS Australia (II) as a canteen manager when it came under attack during the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II. He will be on Garden Island again today as the review gets under way to see the "marvellous" ships.
An RAN spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the Canadaian navy had pulled out of the review. She declined to comment on whether this was because of the collision of two of its warships en route to Hawaii in August.
About 1.7 million people are expected to attend the historic maritime event, which will run until Friday.