Sea Rangers crew celebrate 80 years

THE 80th anniversary of a young people’s group dedicated to nautical activities was celebrated with an afternoon of boating, a cream tea and a jump in the river.

Members, former members and friends of Woking Sea Rangers gathered for the occasion at the organisation’s HQ by the River Wey on Sunday last.

Woking Sea Rangers members and leaders with their 80th anniversary cake, which was about to be cut by the “skipper”, Julie Johnson (centre)

The base, at Send, is SRS Wakeful. It was named after a Royal Naval destroyer that was sunk by enemy action while evacuating troops at Dunkirk in 1940.

The tea was enjoyed while the guests looked through log books and photos from the past.

“It was a very hot afternoon but, after the formalities, our Cadets and Rangers changed into their wet gear for fun on, or should I say in, the water,” said the senior officer, Julie Johnson.

Long-standing member and trustee Sandra Richardson with the Woking crew’s flag

“They enjoyed the kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, while those wanting a more gentle and dry time enjoyed a row along our beautiful stretch of river, whilst reminiscing of their time with the crew.”

The Woking Sea Rangers crew was formed in April 1942, during the Second World War when the units took on the name of naval vessels. Woking had several options but chose HMS Wakeful, which later made some historic runs at Dunkirk before being torpedoed and sunk with a great loss of life.

“It was felt we should keep the name alive,” said Julie, who is also known as Skipper. 

“Over the years, our crew has seen hundreds of girls and young women become members. In the early wartime days, girls joined at 15 years old and our programme was initial training for work with the WRENS, or the Thames boat service.

“Sea Rangers are very proud that the Queen was a Sea Ranger. The crew’s former skipper, the late Joan Cowan, was on board the training ship MTB 630 in Dartmouth when the then Princess Elizabeth joined them for a residential training in nautical skills.”

The Rangers still maintain some of the historic and nautical training. Girls can join from nine to 21 years, the younger ones as Cadets. They also learn skills for life and crafts and take part the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.

There are camps and trips on Woking’s narrowboat, Pilot. The vessel was purpose built to take young people on all the waterways in the UK and has clocked up journeys as far as the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Some of the crew members go into the River Wey to cool off

The Woking crew is known for being a tough competitor. It retained the national overall trophy in the Ranger and Cadet sections of the Sea Ranger Association’s annual regatta on the River Thames at Hampton Court, which involved rowing and kayak races.

“We are a busy unit again since the last couple of difficult years, and I have the support of a great team of volunteers, many of whom were Sea Rangers or parents of Sea Rangers,” said Julie.

For more information about the crew and how to join up, email Julie.johnson@searangers.org.uk or visit www.searangers.org.uk.

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