Banbury soldier drummer William Fletcher, a reservist with the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) in London, has been volunteering as a military service steward at this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championships where he’s on hand to assist the public, members and guests.
Since 1946 the British Army has served up soldiers on a voluntary basis each year to act as Service Stewards to Wimbledon, where they fulfil a number of important duties. This year there were 335 coveted military positions, split evenly between the three armed services.
William, 24 and a PhD student at King’s College London, said: “This is my first time at Wimbledon. It felt really good to be chosen. It’s a good opportunity to do something completely different, and it’s good to be part of such a big thing in British culture, really. I feel privileged to be here and represent the military doing what we do.”
The Service Steward’s role at Wimbledon is to man the gangways and help visitors find their seats, make sure they are comfortable and to offer support to the other organisations. To the steward, however, interacting with the public is the most important part of the job.
William a first year student in the Defence Studies Department, added: “It’s great interacting with the public when you’re working on the gangways, when people are coming in in the morning. You know, just talking to them and getting to know the different people and where they have come from.
“A lot of them don’t understand a lot of the military stuff, so they’re always quite interested in what we do, and particularly the Reserves part of it. They’re interested that you’re a civilian one
minute and military the next.
“And I enjoy the camaraderie of the military guys, Army, Navy and RAF; getting to know the different services.”
Service stewards work in groups including a representative from each service, and each person holds the same post for the full two weeks, so they know where the nearest fire point is, how to get St John’s Ambulance and also where the nearest water fountain is located.
William’s team is one of eight that complemented all the show courts including Centre Court, Number 1 Court and Courts 2, 3, 12 and 13. The Royal Box on Centre Court requires 50 stewards to look after the members’ area and entrance, corridors and changing rooms.
Military Service Stewards who volunteer for the two weeks must be on leave, they must have their chain of command’s authority to attend and they must be fully fit as the job requires standing for long periods of time in full military uniform.
William, who has performed public guard duties alongside the Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace, said: “Being a PhD student, I have to take two weeks out of doing my PhD to volunteer. But, especially for my other friends in the regiment, they have civilian jobs and they have to take holiday to do it. It does work for me and I’d definitely do it again.”