The Parade Ground

Presentation of the New Colours at the Royal Military College Duntroon.

“Within the Australian Army, the Parade Ground holds a special symbolic representation of a sanctuary of a unit’s fallen soldiers and in line with this symbolism it is deemed “hallowed ground” and is respected as such”

Soldiers from 5 RAR on the parade ground at Robertson Barracks

Soldiers from 5 RAR conduct a 'Beat the Retreat' parade during the Robertson Barracks Open Day.

There are many stories and myths associated with the significants and development of Parade Grounds, the truth can often be the simpler.

In Britain, the military practice in 17th and 18th Century has it that when a regiment marched into a town or any location where they were going to be quartered, a place of assembly was decided upon which may have been a market square, the street outside the senior officer’s lodgings or any convenient open patch of ground.  If the unit was on active operations and camping in the field, the regiment would form up in front of their tents.  This area would be used to draw everyone together in a “parade”, but it would not necessarily be used as a Drill Square.  Once barracks became common in the United Kingdom, which was not until the very late 18th to early 19th Century, the buildings were normally arranged around a square. This open space, which was conveniently situated in the middle of the dwellings, would be used for parades of all sorts, for instance, fatigues, drill, pay, punishment, and the assembly of the guards.

Within the Australian Army, the Parade Ground holds a symbolic representation of a sanctuary of a unit’s fallen soldiers and in line with this symbolism it is deemed “hallowed ground” and is respected as such.

A term used in line with the Parade Ground is “holding ground” and by definition is “troops keeping the ground”[1]  On selected unit ceremonial occasions troops are positioned at the corners of a parade ground to “hold ground”; these troops are equipped with weapons which range from lances to mortars through to guns.  This symbolism is to afford protection to the unit parading in order to permit it to carry out its ceremonial duties safely.

Holding ground should not be confused with the placement of old Artillery pieces at the corners of a parade ground.  These pieces are placed in these positions more as a decoration than as some historic symbol; therefore their position has no meaning either historically or by tradition.



[1] Military Traditions and Customs, Infantry Centre, dated 7 April 1977, Chapter 4, pages 4-14, and paragraph 96.