The Mermaid Beach AEME Surf Life Saving Club is located on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and forms part of the South Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving Queensland. This club is a unique organisation as it embodies two of Australia’s most instantly recognisable “icons”, the Digger and the Surf Life Saver. The reference to AEME in the club name acknowledges those responsible for its beginning, the soldiers of the Watercraft Workshops, Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Bulimba Brisbane.
During the latter half of 1945 soldiers from this unit established a Surf Life Saving Club on the Gold Coast. This new club was named the AEME Surf Life Saving Club and it existed for two seasons until the Queensland Government changed the name of the area patrolled by the club from Los Angles Beach to Mermaid Beach, on the 11th September 1946. At this stage the club decided to change its name to the Mermaid Beach AEME Surf Life Saving Club (the AEME being retained as a reminder of the clubs founders). The area drew its name from the “cutter” Mermaid the ship used by explorer John Oxley to chart the Tweed, Gold Coast, and Moreton Bay areas in 1823.
When the Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, announced the end of the war in the Pacific on the 16th August 1945 the massive task of demobilising Australia’s’ war machine began. Service personnel had many weeks, if not months, of waiting in military establishments to be discharged from active service. To ensure that this time was put to good use the Australian Army encouraged soldiers to become involved in sporting and recreational activities whilst awaiting discharge.
A number of craftsmen at the Watercraft Workshops, Bulimba, were encouraged to participate in swimming and life saving activities by Craftsman Tom Sneyd. Before the war Tom Sneyd was an active life saver with the Stanwell Park SLSC. in New South Wales. With the encouragement of Major C. Ware and the support of Alan Kennedy, from Surf Life Saving Queensland, the foundation for a new surf club was established. With equipment provided by the Army Amenities Fund and Surf Life Saving Queensland weekend training commenced and members initially travelled from Brisbane by Army vehicles with rations provided by the Mess. Accommodation was in tents and the W.E.C. building was also used. Eventually a clubhouse was built, out of “scrounged” material, on the beach front at Ocean Street. The group was fortunate to gain the services of Corporal Horrie Armstrong, a former captain of the City of Perth SLSC, as Chief Instructor. The first Bronze Medallion Squad all qualified on Christmas Day 1945.
From its humble beginnings the club has grown to a position of respect in the Surf Life Saving movement. As a voluntary organisation the members have provided valuable service to the local community and to visitors to the area. The club was most successful in competition during the early 1950’s winning many State Titles in March Past and Surf Boat events. The Club opened a new club house in its current location on the park between Montana Street and Ventura Road in 1952.
The Club’s current building was opened on 2 February 1973. Since that time the Supporters Association was established and public restaurant and bar facilities provided in the club building. Four renovations of the club building have been completed since its construction focusing on the enhancement of facilities for the Supporters Association and Club members.
In recent years the Club has continued to retain its family and youth development orientation but has embraced the opportunities provided by surf sports for the enhancement of membership and profile.
As far as can be established the following is a list of the foundation members of the club:
P. Qakey, J. Dixon, A.B. Pfoeffer, Q.N.Smithers, H.H. Armstrong, C.W. Hill, P. McNally, D. Taylor, T.E. Sneyd, E.S. Keys (first civilian member), L. Kinghorne, C. Gralton, R. Hill, B. Stoyles, C. Pike, H.R .Neilson, P. Choquenot, H.R. Graham, R.D .Kippen, J. Thornton, D. Wysol, A. Phillips, C. lnoine, W. Snodgrass.
The original members included seven qualified lifesavers and two surf life saving examiners. At the inaugural meeting of the club the following office bearers were elected:
- Patron – Major C. Ware
- President – Corporal Horrie Armstrong
- Captain – Craftsman T. Sneyd
- Secretary – Sergeant W. Snodgrass
- Treasurer – B. Stoyles