Members of the armed forces were given a standing ovation at Wimbledon on Saturday to mark the 75-year anniversary of their voluntary work as stewards at the tennis tournament.
Service workers from London’s Metropolitan Police, the London Fire Brigade the Royal Air Force the Royal Navy and the Army were applauded by audience members at Centre Court in south-west London prior to the first match between Coco Gauff and Kaja Juvan.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, the Royal Box has been dedicated to members of the armed forces as a thank you for their work.
Those seated in the box on Saturday include Major General Tim Hodgetts, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Deputy Commissioner for the London Fire Brigade Richard Mills and Lieutenant General Sir Tyrone Urch, who led the military’s contribution to the UK’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ann Miller-McCaffrey, chief petty officer for the Royal Naval Reserve, is a team leader for the volunteers at Wimbledon.
She said she found it “overwhelming” to see the standing ovation.
She told the PA news agency: “Every time it happens, the cheers start, the clapping starts, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It just shows that even the general public appreciate what we’re doing for the country as well but also here at Wimbledon.
“I know quite a lot of people that have been involved with supporting the pandemic and the operations that have gone around it. They’ve all been working super, super hard. But that’s what we’re trying to do as the armed forces.
“I see us more as a defence force as well, because we’re here to protect the country. Doing what we could do during the pandemic really highlights the fact that the armed forces are really valued and element of society.”
During the two weeks of the tournament, the service workers apply to volunteer at Wimbledon where they steward the main staircases on Centre Court, check people’s tickets, show them to their seats and conduct bag checks.
They are also on hand to assist in any emergency incidents.
Most members who are selected use two weeks of their annual holiday so they can volunteer at Wimbledon.
Ms Miller-McCaffrey said this year there were 900 applicants for the 350 spots.
She added: “I’m always of the ethos that if those who went before me didn’t do what they did, I wouldn’t get the opportunities that I have. It’s really good to see from an organisation like Wimbledon to recognise us.”