The last servicemen’s club in Eastbourne

Dave Smedley, Dennis Stringer, Paul Fitzwilliam, Ivor Calverley and Iris Diamond SUS-150223-113641001
Dave Smedley, Dennis Stringer, Paul Fitzwilliam, Ivor Calverley and Iris Diamond SUS-150223-113641001

Tucked away down Wish Road is the last servicemen’s club in Eastbourne.

And the town’s Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) wants to make sure it goes from strength to strength as service clubs have dwindled in the town.

Secretary of the club Iris Diamond said, “We’re the last service club in Eastbourne, all the rest have closed so we want to go from strength to strength.

“Nobody know where the RAFA club is. A lot of people don’t even know there is a RAFA club in Eastbourne.”

Vice-chairman Dave Smedley, said, “The thing the clubs are suffering with is the fact the forces are so small now. If I can give you some figures, at the end of World War Two, the strength of the RAF was 1,300,000 officers and airmen. It’s now about 30,000. There are more people in the air cadets than in the RAF.”

RAFA, which is a national association, plays a vital role in supporting servicemen, ex-servicemen, and their families.

Membership secretary Dennis Stringer, said, “RAFA supports ex-servicemen and their families. We have widows and in some cases children as well. There’s still air force people serving in Libya and Afghanistan. Everybody gets a free phone card which they can use once a week to phone home. The air force association pays for that. It’s little touches like that which makes it quite important.”

And although RAFA is primarily to support those in the forces, the club is open to anyone. It has a darts club, a bingo night, dances, a bar and serves food several days a week. The club will also be home to this year’s annual RAF conference, bringing hundreds of people to Eastbourne in May.

The Eastbourne branch of RAFA has been running for 60 years, opening in June 1955.

“As far as the ex servicesmen’s clubs are concerned, we were one of the originals,” said Mr Stringer. And with 380 members today, the club wants to ensure it continues to thrive.