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Abridged History – Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club Inc.

The Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club held its inaugural meeting on 20th February 1930, at the Lyndoch Scout Hall, Timor Street, Warrnambool. On Thursday, 9th January 1930, a group of interested surf bathers and members of the public held an “…enthusiastic meeting ……to consider the question of forming a life saving club…”. The proposal “…met with prompt approbation and a club was formed…”. [Warrnambool Standard, 10 January 1930]

Following lengthy discussion at this public meeting it was unanimously agreed that a Life Saving Club be formed “…with its own executive to act in conjunction with the Warrnambool Surf Bathers and Beach Improvement Association….”. The motion was carried by all present.

At a second meeting [March, 1930] of the newly formed Surf Life Saving Club Mr. Fletcher Jones (later Sir Fletcher Jones) readily accepted the position of President. He was to hold the position until 21st March 1931, when, due to the pressure of business, he resigned. In his announcement to the Committee he stated that he would “…continue working for the prosperity of the Club in the future as he had done in the past” [Club Minutes]. Fletcher Jones remained with the Club as Vice President for a further 9 years. Immediately on accepting his resignation as President, the Committee elected Mr. Jones a Life Member – the first Life Member of the Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club.

The newly formed Surf Life Saving Club maintained its involvement and relationship with the local Surf Bathers Association as well as with the Royal Life Saving Society. This early relationship with the Royal Life movement was quite common with Clubs that had formed outside of New South Wales even after 1910.

Prompt action was taken by the newly formed Club following its inaugural meeting by insisting that members obtain the ‘Bronze and Surf Bronze Medallions’ as soon as possible. The first examination was set for the first weekend in April 1930. At a presentation following this examination, Mr. A.P.Newey, Secretary, Royal Life Saving Society (Melbourne), since its inception some twenty years prior, announced a 100% success rate.

The members of the Club were most anxious to establish a Club House and wasted no time in informing the City Council that they had £100 ($200) to spend on the erection of a building for this purpose. However, they had to wait until November,1934, when the Council allowed them to occupy an old concrete beach kiosk at an annual rental of £10 ($20). This matter of the rent was to be rescinded at a later Council meeting. The ‘kiosk’ building was to be the home of the Warrnambool Club until a new clubhouse was constructed early in the 1950s.

The first “recorded” rescue by the Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club’s surf reel team was acknowledged at a Committee meeting on 10th February, 1931.

Club colours have always been a contentious issue at Warrnambool. At a Committee Meeting on 3rd March, 1930, it was recorded that the first choice – that of light-blue was not available as St Kilda had registered that colour. Mr. (Fletcher) Jones discussed other colours then available from Jantzens and mention was made of ‘suntan’. Other colours that had been considered were black and red.

When considering an emblem for the Club’s Pennant at that time, mention was made of reds, browns and white. The emblem, a seagull, was to form part of the March Past Pennant. In January, 1932, it was decided to paint the reel, which had been on loan to the Club from the Surf Bathers Association, “…two browns and white…”.

The Club continued through the War years thanks to the diligence of some older members of the day. The membership did, however, consist of several young men including Stan Stevens, Peter Johnson, Rex Struth, the Astbury twins and Wes McLear.

Harold Stephenson, who first joined the Club as a cadet in August, 1936, was invalided home from the A.I.F. during 1943. On his return he took over the secretarial role from Miss Joan Batson and was to continue in that position until 1970. He was not only a distinguished citizen, having served as a Councillor and a Mayor of the City of Warrnambool, but also an exemplary lifesaver and a key figure in the post war development of the Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club. Harold gained his Bronze Medallion (26760) in the 1948-49 season and went on to gain his instructors certificate in 1950-51. He was appointed to the Board of Examiners the following year. In 1951-52 Harold was elected a Life Member of the Warrnambool Club.

Until the formation of Surf Life Saving in Victoria patrols on established beaches throughout the State appeared to be on a ‘needs basis’. Warrnambool, for example, maintained a reel on the beach at all times which had been the practice since 1918.

During the war years, and under the supervision of some older members, the young cadets maintained these patrols. Because of the involvement of women with the Royal Life Saving Society they, too, had an active part in the patrols at that time.

A general reorganisation of the Club took place in 1945 following the war and, on the formation of the Victorian Branch of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia in 1947, Warrnambool joined Torquay and Portland as inaugural members. From the Club’s inception until 1947 Warrnambool was affiliated with the Royal Life Saving Society.

DAVID ATKINSON [November 2007]