I’ve often wondered why you kept seeing military personnel around the court at Wimbledon. Last year I posted a question about it, I’ve hunted around the web and even sent some emails to Wimbledon and BBC trying to find out.
It seems that it is a tradition going back (at least) to the second world war. Military personnel are used as stewards around the site. Over 300 personnel from all three Services are recruited to be stewards each year.
“Their responsibilities include helping the public get from their queue positions outside the courts to their seats, ensuring that members of the public abide by Wimbledon rules such as turning off mobile phones during play, and making sure that members of the audience are comfortable and well-hydrated.
As over half of those who are chosen must have done the job before, the competition is fierce for the hundreds of personnel who apply to work at Wimbledon, so for those who are chosen success is so much sweeter.”
Defence News 2 June 2010 (nice article, go read!)
According to the above article members of the London Fire Brigade make up the other half of the stewards required by Wimbledon.
I also found a forum post from the recruiting officer looking for army personnel to apply as volunteers in 2008. The official line is that the time they use comes from their personal leave time and they will be paid a daily allowance, so as one reply put it: “its two weeks getting chatted up by posh totty, being paid £100+ in our nations capital, at a major sporting event. What’s not to like?!!”
I think it is fantastic to have traditions like this and to give military personnel these ‘perks’. It is great to keep them in the public eye and to know that these soldiers who we see here and on ceremonial occasions are the same people who serve in real war zones.