Plymouth footballers kick off Armed Services benefit match

The Royal Navy and Plymouth Argyle joined forces to celebrate and benefit military personnel and their families with an Armed Services Day match on Saturday 18 November at Home Park.

The annual event is sponsored by the Royal Navy’s main industrial partner Babcock and centred on the Oxford United game. 

This year it will adopt the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) as the main charitable cause during their centenary year. Collections will be made on behalf of the WRNS Benevolent Trust.

There were many extra attractions inside and outside the ground, before and during the match, to keep everyone entertained.

An exciting programme included the Royal Marines zip wire experts delivering the match-day ball to veteran Wren Sheila King, 90, who served as a leading Wren officers’ cook from 1945-48, and a young female sailor.

The Marines also entertained the crowds with their unarmed combat display team. Other crowd pleasers were the HMS Drake Volunteer Band, Military Kids Choir, veteran standard bearers, Royal Navy chaplain and Plymouth Pipe Band, and a penalty shootout competition with the Argyle Youth Academy.

It’s really appropriate for us to be supported in this way in 2017, 100 years after the WRNS formation

WRNS veteran Pennie Burne

WRNS veteran Pennie Burne said: “It’s fantastic to see Plymouth and Plymouth Argyle supporting us ‘Wrens’. Plymouth is a Naval city and with the club is a huge part of the life of the people here.

“It’s really appropriate for us to be supported in this way in 2017, 100 years after the WRNS formation. There are so many former Wrens and current Royal Navy serving females living here.”

Argyle manager Derek Adams said: “We look forward to welcoming servicemen and women to our match against Oxford United. Armed Services Day is a day everyone at Home Park looks forward to.

“It is a fine occasion and an opportunity for the club, the city and the community to show the depth of support for our military personnel, youth organisations, veterans and their families.”

Pauline Lake, chair of the HMS Drake branch of the WRNS Association, said: “We are very grateful to the football club and for the support of the Royal Navy for this special occasion. We are marking the WRNS 100 years to remind the younger members of the Royal Navy about us trail blazers for women’s careers in the Naval Service. 

“We are privileged to be the main charity of the day. There are plenty of women now and in the future who will need the help of the Benevolent Trust, we hope supporters will be generous.’’

An Armed Forces Covenant was formally signed pitch-side by Admiral John Clink (head of the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation in Devonport Naval Base) and James Brent (Argyle chairman). This is a promise to those who have served or are serving and their families to ensure they are treated fairly.

Although the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was disbanded in 1993, about 45,000 women served and a large pool of potential beneficiaries of the charity. The WRNS Association represents formers members and current female members of the Royal Navy.