London: Clubs provide servicemembers with bargains on places to stay
London is an expensive place to visit, but those connected with the military have an option to cut those costs.
Active-duty, Reserve, retired and former military, plus Department of Defense civilians can stay at not-for-profit, non-governmental clubs on a “space-available” basis.
The clubs have more than rooms. They offer the opportunity to meet fellow servicemembers, many of whom are most helpful and knowledgeable about the local scene.
London has two such clubs.
Union Jack Club
The Union Jack Club has modern facilities just opposite Waterloo Station (and Waterloo East Station). Signs inside the station give directions to the club.
The club is within walking distance to the Old Vic, the National Theatre, Royal Festival Hall and the popular new Museum of the Moving Image. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are a short walk across Westminster Bridge, while the Hungerford Bridge leads to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Station, and the theater and entertainment district around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
Members and guests can choose from among 87 single rooms, each with a private shower and toilet; 64 twin or double-bedded rooms with private bath and toilets; and 10 family suites, each with a twin- or double-bedded room, a small room with a bunk bed, and private bath and toilet.
The club also has 168 single rooms and 17 twin-bedded rooms, each with sinks. Baths, showers and toilets are centrally located on each floor.
Club facilities include a restaurant, a bar lounge, television room, library, billiard room and launderette. Limited parking is also available.
While the Union Jack Club is a membership club, it welcomes Americans with some form of military identification. U.S. servicemembers are considered temporary honorary members.
Room rates are modest, with singles starting at about $45 per night .
The club was founded in 1904 to commemorate the South African War and was formally opened by King Edward VII in 1907 to provide residential accommodation for serving and retired members of the armed forces below commissioned rank and their families.
Victory Services Club
The Victory Services Club is also well located, but in London’s West End. It is two blocks from Marble Arch and an easy walk from the American Embassy, Navy Annex and Oxford Street, with Selfridges and other major stores. It’s served by the Marble Arch station of the underground and the No. 6 and No. 16 buses from Victoria Station.
The club offers 146 single rooms and 80 double rooms, 41 of which have en-suite bathrooms, and accommodates all ranks — active duty and former — civilian workers for the military, and families. Rooms without bathrooms have washstands, with bath and toilet facilities centrally located on each floor.
Club facilities include a restaurant/grill room, lounges, ballroom, games room, television rooms and a library. Three-course lunch or evening meals start at about $10. A full English breakfast is included in the price of the room.
The club requires membership of all its guests including spouses (children excepted). Membership is about $23 per year. The membership year runs from April 1 to March 31. Proof of a military tie is required. Active-duty military do not have to pay a membership fee but pay an additional $1.65 per night.
Single rooms start at about $55; see prices below.
The club was founded in 1907, and the present building was opened in 1948.
In addition, many British towns have veterans clubs that do not have rooms but offer good cheer, warm meals and a hearty welcome for their American allies. They are like the American Legion, VFW and Fleet Reserve Association in the States, but usually quite a bit more “clubby.”
The Royal British Legion may be the largest of these organizations in Great Britain but there are others. For example, in Birmingham, England, the Royal Marines Association, Royal Navy Association and other Naval veterans groups have banded together and operate nightly the popular Nautical Club in Bishopsgate.
Information on the legion is available by writing to: Royal British Legion, 48 Pall Mall, London SWlY 5JY, United Kingdom.
Dennis A. Cavagnaro is a retired Marine living in the United States.
If you go ...
¶ At the Union Jack Club, single rooms without private bathroom or television start at 27.50 pounds (about $45) per night (32.50 — about $53 — for temporary honorary members) and rise to 38.50 pounds for a single with bath.
Twin or double rooms without baths start at 53 pounds (61 pounds for temporary honorary members) and rise to 71 pounds with bathroom. Family rooms are 104 pounds for temporary members. Prices include taxes but no breakfast.
Contact The Secretary, Union Jack Club, Sandell Street, Waterloo, London SE1 8UJ, United Kingdom; phone (+44) (0) 207-928-6401 (for reservations, press #1); fax (+44) (0) 207-620- 0565; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the club, including a breakdown of room rates, is available on the Internet at: www.ujclub.co.uk.
¶ At the Victory Services Club, single rooms without baths start at 34 pounds (about $55), singles with bath start at 45 pounds, while doubles without bath start at 67 pounds and doubles with baths start at 88 pounds. Family rooms start at 110 pounds. Prices include all taxes and breakfast.
A 5-percent discount is available for three consecutive nights, and a 10-percent discount is given for four or more consecutive nights.
Contact The Secretary, Victory Services Club, 63/79 Seymour St., London W2 2HF, United Kingdom;phone (+44) (0) 207-723-4474; or e-mail at email@example.com. Find information, including membership details, at www.vsc.co.uk.
Several other Web sites can help you find inexpensive lodging in London. They include: www.cheap-hotels-london.net; www.1-cheap-london-england-hotels.com; www.studios92.com; www.londonnet.co.uk/ln/guide/accomm/budget_hostels.html.
— Stars and Stripes