Royal Navy Rugby Union Attend Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day was marked across the UK with events in many cities to celebrate servicemen and women. The National event was held in Guildford, Surrey which included a service at the cathedral, a military parade involving hundreds of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and cadets.
The Combined Services Sports Control Board, along with the overall organisers had decided that a ‘Sport for All’ event would run in conjunction with this year’s event and each of the 3 Service Control Boards selected a number of sports to be represented, Royal Navy Rugby Union (RNRU) being one of them. So in a far flung corner of Stoke Park the RNRU set up stall in company with the RAF Spitfires who were co-hosts for the rugby aspect of the sporting festival.
It required military precision to set up the marquee and the SAQ (Speed, Agility and Quickness) stance and quite rightly Dave Wakefield, RNRU Community Coach (Eastern Region), demanded a turn-to of 0830 to ensure everything was ship shape before the event was open to the public. A cadre of elite sportsmen and women were mustered to support the event and the Navy Sharks arrived in force, keen to enjoy the 24⁰c weather and the prospect of attention from the adoring public.
A slow uptake was inevitable so the Sharks were dispatched in the direction of the main gate to drum up some business. Hunting in pairs they had soon corralled the first group of willing volunteers. Then families began to turn up en masse and the real work began. One instructor would conduct a familiarisation run of the course and after setting off for the competitive part another instructor would follow behind with the next individual/ group. Hydration was not only required due to the temperature but also due to the amount of speaking either to the children or their parents on the side-lines.
Surrounded on all sides by the many and varied sports that make up service life including bizarrely a stand for the Jacksonville Jaguars American Football Team. As it soon became apparent how popular the rugby was, the other sporting societies relocated closer to get in on the action.
An obstacle course and the chance to challenge a sibling brought nearly 300 children to the RNRU doorstep. Recording some incredible times the children, whether new to the sport or ‘old hands’, thoroughly enjoyed it much to the delight of their cheering relations. A couple of sub one-minute times put the Sharks right off from doing a demonstration run. “I don’t want to injure myself and miss the next tournament”, one lamented!
Other societies and associations were generous with their comments for the way in which the stance was being run and its obvious popularity; this was never so obviously supported by the number of children queuing up all afternoon.
No doubt based on the success and attention given to the sporting stances it is understood that is to be included again next year. Whether the RNRU are asked to lead again is in the air but if so it will be most assuredly done in style.
The Armed Forces Day proved to be extremely rewarding for the RNRU members taking part and ultimately the footfall of in excess of 60,000 visitors highlights how important the forces are to the general public.
Article and Images by J Campbell-Baldwin