Naval veterans given safe harbour at town's tennis club

Members of the Cromer and district branch of the Royal Naval Association, from left Martin Wood, cha

Flashback to February 2020, when the Cromer and district branch of the Royal Naval Association were searching for a new home. Pictured are, from left,Martin Wood, chairman Philip Dudley, Brian Bayley, secretary Janet Mills, Anne Mann and Dr John Mills. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

Naval veterans will soon be able to share a tot of rum at a new venue, after having been left 'homeless' shortly before the onset of coronavirus. 

The Cromer branch of the Royal Naval Association has announced plans to hold regular meetings at the town's lawn tennis club off Norwich Road. 

Branch member and forces bishop Dr John Mills said a 'reopening meeting' following a pandemic hiatus would take place in early July - depending on the further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Dr Mills said: "As we live in Nelson's County, it is really important that we keep our Royal Navy maritime connections going."

Branch members used to meet at the Cottage pub in Louden Road, but were left without a venue after the pub closed in July 2019, and it has since been sold for redevelopment into flats.

Kelvin van Hasselt is passionate about retaining the all-weather courts at Cromer tennis and squash

Kelvin van Hasselt is passionate about retaining the all-weather courts at Cromer tennis and squash club. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

But after a public appeal made through this newspaper, Cromer Tennis Club stepped into offer their club rooms as a venue.

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Kelvin van Hasselt, club chairman, said: "We're delighted to offer them a place to meet. They fought for our country, many of their comrades died for our country, and the least we owe them is a place where they can get together and share their memories. 

"They're going to be able to have a drink at the bar of 'gunfire rum' which is close to the drink the Royal Navy used to give out as their daily tot. It's a good strong brew."

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Mr van Hasselt said they were working with the naval association to organise an event to mark Trafalgar Day, to take place on October 21.

Mr van Hasselt said he met with Dr Mills and Philip Dudley from the naval association, and they also discussed their links to sailing training at Wells. 

"That's something that we really support - getting qualifications in sport is an excellent cause," Mr van Hasselt said.

Dr Mills said the branch was open to all serving and retired members of the navy, marines, Womens' Royal Naval Service (WRNS) Queen Alexander's Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) RN&RM Reserves, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Naval Auxiliary Service (RNXS) and Merchant Navy.

For more information about the association, email or visit

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