A branch of the Royal Naval Association (RNA) has been forced to close due to a dwindling membership.

The Loughton branch has been left with just 15 members following a number of deaths in recent years.

Association secretary Jim Smith said the association was left with no choice but to close after more than 25 years.

He said: “Deaths of our members mean we have been left with not enough people to fill the officerships.

“With associates and supporters from other branches we have around 30 members, but only 15 full members, which is not enough for us to continue.”

Mr Smith said there has been a cultural shift which is affecting organisations like the RNA.

“People who leave the services nowadays have no interest in joining groups like ours and haven’t done for some years,” he added.

Alan Simpson, chairman of the association, said that there has been a dramatic drop in numbers during his time as a member.

"When I joined in 1989, this branch had over 100 members. Now it's dropped to 15. It's just not enough members to carry on," he said.

Mr Simpson joined the navy when he was 15 and moved to Loughton after he had completed 10 years of service.

The 83-year-old became chairman five years ago and said the group will now become an informal branch.

"We will no longer need to send paper work to HQ, but we will still meet up. I think some of the members will really miss it," he added.

The group will officially close on Wednesday with a service at St John’s Church, Loughton, where it will lay its standard.

After the service refreshments will be available at the Royal British Legion, Church Hill, Loughton.