Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club

No Lives Lost at Bondi Beach

Day: September 9, 2022

We lower the flag to half mast

We lower the flag to half mast today to acknowledge the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

48 years ago the Queen attended the Royal Surf Carnival at Bondi Beach (see excerpt from 100 year history below)

Today, we remember her lifetime of service to her country.

Our thoughts with the King and the Royal Family on this sad day.

#firstsurfclub #bondisurfclub #surflifesaving #noliveslost #vale #RIP #bondibeach #staysafe #love #beach #slsa #queenelizabeth #Queen

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Excerpt from The Bondi Lifesaver

A Royal Command Performance
On the evening of 2 November 1953 at the London Collesium, a Royal Command Performance took place before the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II. The performance concluded with an ‘Australian Tableau‘ that included cricketers, servicemen, indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand, and a Canberra jet bomber. At the rear of the tableau dominated by a large flag were six lifesavers. The six lifesavers were dressed in Bondi march-past costumes and caps and the flag was Bondi’s March Past standard.
The request for the costumes, caps and flag had come via a telegram to National Superintendent Ken Watson from Alan Kennedy, the Queenslander who had the year before established the British Surf Lifesaving Association in Cornwall. In deciding on a surf club that would strike a chord with a British audience there was simply no choice. Watson contacted Tom Meagher and the costumes and flags were sent by air freight. Once again Bondi was seen as the epitome of the surf lifesaving movement and Australia.
Bondi and its lifesavers may also have been chosen for the tableau because the new Queen had already issued a ‘royal command‘ to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia to hold a Royal Surf Carnival on Bondi Beach during her tour of Australia in 1954. By sheer coincidence, the date for the carnival was set as 6 February 1954; 16 years to the day since the momentous events of Black Sunday.
The Club was informed about the carnival in May 1953. It was decided that the two Bondi clubs would share responsibility for the organization of the event, although the level of input from the SLSA would be great. Former National Superintendent Vic Besomo and North Bondi’s S. Price would share the role of Honorary Organisers. With his national titles experience Besomo was also appointed Carnival Referee. Tom Meagher was selected as the Carnival’s Hon. Secretary and the preparations would be overseen by a committee chaired by Ken Watson and including Adrian Curlewis.
In June 1953 400 delegates from various levels of the surf lifesaving movement met at the Bondi clubhouse to be informed of plans for the event. It had been decided that as well as an interclub carnival the centrepiece of the day would be a Test between Australian and New Zealand representative teams. Most of the work in preparation would be borne by volunteers from the two Bondi Clubs; each agreed to each provide 100 members plus 20 members each from their ‘Ladies Auxillaries’. It was assumed the cost of the carnival would be the greatest ever spent on an SLSA carnival. In the end the event cost over £6000 to stage.
Soon after the planned carnival was announced, Mayor Jeppesen was forced to deal with a torrent of criticism from both within and outside the Waverley district. It was suggested that Council neglect had turned Bondi into a ‘beggar beach’. The ‘rust stained and weather beaten’ Pavilion was virtually ‘derelict’ and the poor upkeep of the park meant that the sight was simply not suitable for hosting royalty. Manly interests agreed. In an attempt to win back a crown lost during the interwar years, it was suggested that Manly was the true ‘Playground of the Pacific’ and was a much more beautiful environment to host royalty for a surf carnival. Jeppesen’s response did little to build much confidence or suggest that deterioration of the beach’s infrastructure would be stopped. Strategically placed bunting would ensure the beach and the Pavilion would be looking their best.
Five weeks before the carnival day, work began on the construction of the seating for the event. Eleven thousand people would be accommodated in raked seating along the promenade. The ‘Royal Dais’ would stand atop the Club’s boat shed which was now accommodated in what remained of one of the old concrete groynes.
Another controversy erupted a month out from the event. Gone were the days when competitors other than the R&R teams and March Past were compelled to compete in a full costume; trunks were the norm. The Carnival Committee, however, decided that bared Australian chests before her majesty were inappropriate and so all competitors were informed that they would have to wear full costumes. A media storm followed with most commentators suggesting the ruling was a ‘ridiculous one’. The Bondi Surfer, however, came out in favour of the ruling, lest the competitors appear ‘looking more like hoboes than a team of properly turned-out and well drilled Australian lifesavers’.
Eight thousand, two hundred and fifty seven people paid 30 bob each to sit in the enclosure with a great view of the beach and a good view of the Royal Dais. Many suggested they were the best seats of the Royal Tour. Members of the Australian Jockey Club who had to enter a ballot and then pay an exorbitant amount for a ticket to catch a distant glimpse of the Queen at Randwick Racecourse opted out and purchased seats to the surf carnival. Thirty thousand more took vantage points around the beach and tens of thousands lined the decorated motorcade route from Randwick Racecourse to Bondi Beach.
The Royal Party arrived at Bondi at 3.30pm whereupon the Queen and Prince Phillip climbed into a white landrover for a brief tour of the beach and review of the March Past teams before reaching the Royal Dais. On the Dais three Bondi members greeted the hand of their monarch that day, Carl Jeppesen as Mayor of Waverley, Tom Meagher as President of the Club and Vic Besomo as Organiser and Carnival Referee.
The Royal Party was scheduled to be at the beach for only half an hour but stayed for an extra 41 minutes. Both members of the Royal Party appeared genuinely interested in the activities and the Duke of Edinburgh was especially enthralled by the surf boats. Amongst Bondi members the Duke’s interest was explained by a rumour that as a young naval officer during World War II the Duke had spent some time in Sydney and become an honorary member of the Club swimming at the beach most days. There is, however, no record of honorary membership being extended to any British naval officer during the war years.
The carnival was quickly cateogorised as the ‘the most spectacular surf carnival in the annals of the Association’. Great praise was especially directed at Vic Besomo and the Royal Carnival probably did help when later in the year he decided to stand once again for National Superintendent. In a dig at the earlier criticism of Bondi’s selection, Tom Meagher noted: ‘It was certainly a gala day for Bondi and the REAL ‘Playground of the Pacific‘ never looked more beautiful‘. For the Bondi SBLSC, Meagher suggested it ranked as the second most important day in the Club’s history.
Mayor Jeppesen was very keen to enshrine the carnival and the Queens visit in Bondi history. As with many places visited by the Queen during the Royal tour he wished to see Bondi Beach attract the honorific ‘Royal Bondi Beach’. The request however was rejected and Jeppesen had to make do with a bronze plague on the site of the Royal Dais commemorating the event

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