Manly Diggers Swimming Club is proud to be one of the original five clubs comprising what is now the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) Swimming Association of Australia.
After meeting with the Limbless Soldiers Association Swimming Club prior to 1936, clubs were formed at Manly, Tramways, Bondi and Coogee-Randwick and the inaugural carnival was held on 12th December, 1936 commencing at 8pm at the Old Coogee Aquarium. Manly, then the AIF section of the Manly Amateur Swimming Club was one of the foundation clubs of the movement.
After the Second World War membership and activities grew when ex-servicemen joined the Club. Such was the increase in membership and social activities that a clubhouse was needed for its own members. Following a meeting in June, 1956 it was decided to build the clubroom with voluntary labour wherever possible. The opening ceremony was in February 1960. It was at ground level on the southern side of the existing two storey building in East Esplanade.
Manly has been served by many excellent officials and represented by many fine swimmers. At the Old Manly baths, weekly handicap races and also championships were cheered on with equal enthusiasm sometimes only inches separating individual swimmers, especially having the luxury of riding home on the wake of one of the old Manly Ferries or near drowning on some foreign body floating in the pool!
1974 was a watershed in the history of our club. Huge seas caused extensive damage along coastal New South Wales, including Manly where the ocean pool off West Esplanade and the Municipal Baths at East Esplanade were flattened. Prior to the 1974-75 season the local council closed the remnants of the pool. After many working bees our members worked hard to patch the damaged sections of the baths. We were able to conduct the swimming programmes for the 1974-76 seasons. The demolition of the old baths was a landmark in the history of Australian Swimming as many Australian champions reputations were first established there. It was also the venue for many of the AIF carnivals.
September 1976 saw the opening of the new 50 metre outdoor swimming pool in a new locale, originally called the Manly Swim Centre now known as the Manly Andrew “Boy” Charlton Aquatic Centre. Over the years the club settled in, slowly adjusting to its new environment and of course to the chlorinated fresh water.
Back at the old baths the upstairs clubhouse was developed and with the help of club stalwarts such as Frank Hughes, Ron Easson and Alan Ball serving on the building committee, they saw the eventual construction of a large concrete deck in the early eighties as well the complete refurbishing of the interior.
In 1984, female members were first allowed to join and swim with the club. As a result membership has increased and the club is more family friendly.
Re-enactment of the 1936 AIF Carnival
On Sunday 28th February 1988 the Manly Diggers club staged a re-enactment of the first AIF carnival with events duplicated from the original carnival programme. The carnival was endorsed by the Manly council as part of the district’s contribution to commemorate the 1988 bicentenary.
The Manly Diggers Swimming Club of today is different to that which helped kick off the AIF Swimming Association but the founding members would be impressed by the healthy state of the club. Our members retain the commitment to swimming at the highest level, whatever the individual’s abilities may be.