Big guns out on Australia Day with 21-shot artillery salute at Kings Park

Big guns out on Australia Day with 21-shot artillery salute at Kings Park

AUSTRALIA Day starts with a bang when the youngest commander of the Royal Western Australia Regiment’s 3rd Light Battery Major Jackson Thompson (29) leads a 21-shot artillery salute to Elizabeth II from Kings Park at noon this Thursday.

“Australia Day is a celebration and a remembrance about what it is to be Australian, what any individual believes, and this ceremony is one aspect of that,” Maj Thompson said.

The Leederville accountant is a reserve officer currently studying a Masters of Engineering, and his Irwin Barracks, Karrakatta-based unit of about 45 soldiers operates 81mm mortars in combat and 105mm artillery guns at ceremonies.

This will be Maj Thompson’s first ceremony in command of the big guns, each operated by a four-soldier detachment, which the public can view firing at the park.

“It’s a great position to be able to exercise the skills the army has given me, and I have developed myself, a lot earlier than I would have had in my civilian job,” Maj Thompson said.

He said artillery salutes dated from the times of gunpowder, when it was regarded as an honour for dignitaries to be allowed to approach the weapons that carried the seal of a monarch, and were known as the “kings” of battlefields.

The Australia Day salute is the army’s first public event for 2017’s ANZAC heritage and national commemorations, that will include the Centenary of Anzac and 100 years since the battles of Bullecourt, Messines, Polygon Wood and Ypres in France during World War I, and the mounted charge by light horse at Beersheba in the Middle East.

Across the western suburbs, civilian Australia Day celebrations will include citizenship ceremonies, and awards for councils’ citizens of the year.

Australia Day ambassador and former former Fremantle Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich will join the joint Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove councils’ ceremony at the Cottesloe Civic Centre lawns, Broome Street from 8am.

“We’re thrilled to have Matthew Pavlich visiting us and speaking about his experiences and his pride in being Australian,” Cottesloe Mayor Jo Dawkins said.

A free barbecue breakfast will be served, and participants should bring their own drink bottles, a mug, plate and cutlery, a picnic rug or folding chair, and sun protection.