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Motherwell sailor's royal treatment at Wimbledon

13 July 2018
World-Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton led the applause as nearly 15,000 people saluted Leading Naval Nurse Chelsie Rice – one of several military personnel rewarded with a star-studded day in the royal box at Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

The 23-year-old from Newarthill, near Motherwell, was singled out for her hard work, attitude, drive and desire on her very first deployment: helping to run a hospital with fellow Royal Navy medics at Bentiu in South Sudan, part of a 400-strong British presence as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

Chelsie, who only joined the Royal Navy 18 months ago, was one of seven people from across the three Services who received the full VIP treatment at the world’s most famous tennis tournament on ‘People’s Saturday’, special recognition for going above and beyond the call of ordinary duty.

After learning about the military’s long-standing role at SW19 – around 300 personnel volunteer to act as stewards over the fortnight of the Grand Slam event every year – Chelsie and her mum were shown the foyer of centre court, where the winner’s plaques and trophies can be found and which leads to an exclusive balcony terrace where royal box guests enjoy the finest dining.

“Guests included Billie Jean King, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and Sir Bobby Charlton,” said Chelsie. “Whilst waiting to order our food Billie Jean King came over to our military table, introduced herself and shook all the military personnel’s hands and thanked us for our service and for coming.

“The à la carte menu consisted of lobster, halibut, steak and strawberries and cream – we couldn’t not have strawberries and cream while at the Wimbledon!”

The standing ovation and everlasting round of applause we received for our services from everyone on centre court that day was incredible and a moment I won’t forget in a hurry

Leading Naval Nurse Chelsie Rice, Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth

Having enjoyed quintessential Wimbledon food, Chelsie and her mum sat down to a menu of top-notch tennis: but before Rafael Nadal took on Alex de Minaur, TV presenter Sue Barker took to the court and introduced the royal box guests, including the seven sailors, soldiers and airmen.

“The standing ovation and everlasting round of applause we received for our services from everyone on centre court that day was incredible and a moment I won’t forget in a hurry,” said Chelsie, who’s currently serving with the military medics assigned to Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital.

In between games, the VIPs could stretch their legs in the foyer, bump into former world heavyweight champion David Haye, enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace again – sandwiches, scones, canapés, cakes and unlimited refills of tea and coffee.

Having seen Nadal triumph and women’s finalist Angelique Kerber beat Naomi Osaka, the Rices settled down for the day’s main event: British hopeful Kyle Edmund against Novak Djokovic.

The Serb won in four sets, but it didn’t cast much of a cloud on Chelsie’s day.

“The memories I have from Wimbledon will be hard to top! From my seat right at the front of the royal box, to sitting at lunch with all the inspirational sportsmen and women, to receiving a standing ovation in centre court and watch the world class tennis.

“I am so proud and humbled to have represented the Military, the Royal Navy and more so the QARNNS at this very prestigious event!”

Lieutenant Commander Karen McCullough, Chelsie’s Commanding Officer, said the young Naval nurse’s “positive attitude, drive and dedication” in Sudan stood out as she volunteered to take on extra responsibilities such as overseeing prevent infections spreading in the wards, running training sessions for local civilians working at the hospital.

“Always the first to volunteer, Leading Naval Nurse Rice undertook a range of tasks, some of which she felt were beyond her abilities but she tackled them with a positive, cheerful attitude and grew in confidence,” she said.

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