Club is forced to close despite staff’s efforts

Founder, Doug Smith (far left) with his wife Betty Smith and (second right), Malvyn Fryer and Gerry Jones at the Hampshire Ex-Servicemen's Club in Fratton

Founder, Doug Smith (far left) with his wife Betty Smith and (second right), Malvyn Fryer and Gerry Jones at the Hampshire Ex-Servicemen's Club in Fratton

Michelle Bates, WO2 Lloyd Gillingham, Noah, six, and Gunner Ryan Hancock
Pictures: Habibur Rahman

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A LONG-RUNNING ex-services club has closed suddenly due to a lack of money and membership.

The decision to close the Hampshire Ex-Services Club, in Fratton Road, came as a shock to members, who were hoping the club was safe.

A new committee had recently formed and had introduced more activities and revised opening hours in a bid to save it.

The chairman of the club Melvyn Fryers said he was saddened to announce that the club has been closed with immediate effect.

‘The president and I are sorry that due to a lack of funding and a declining membership, we have to close,’ he said.

‘I feel absolutely gutted for the staff and for the members, but the decision has been made above us.

‘I can’t believe that last Saturday was our last event in the club, and I’m even more saddened that we cannot open the venue for one last dance this weekend.

‘We thank all members past and present for their support and everyone who helped with donations to get us to where we are today. I’m not sure what is going to happen next.’

Mr Fryer, 66, said letters are being sent out to members to inform them of the sudden closure.

Only last week the club had started a fish and chip lunch session, tea dancing classes and karaoke afternoons for younger members, to try to get the 36-year-old club back on its feet.

Changes had also been made to opening hours and it was hoped the club would be safe until its annual general meeting, in mid-April.

The club was founded in 1971 by Doug Smith, 85, and William Doyle and was set up for ex-servicemen and their families.

It was later opened to all.

But where it once had a membership of around 1,500, at the time of closure this had fallen by more than two thirds to 400.

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