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Leading expert on RNLI history awarded BEM in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Lifeboats News Release

Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer Barry Cox has been recognised with a British Empire Medal (BEM) on the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours List for his many years of voluntary service to RNLI heritage.

Barry, 84, has volunteered his services to the RNLI for nearly 30 years, working hard in the Heritage Library and Archive ensuring that 190 years of unique historical records have been preserved for the charity. Without Barry’s hard work and dedication, much of the collection would not have survived.

Barry said: ‘I was very surprised and honoured, it feels incredible and I never imagined anything like this happening to me, I am the first member of my family to be mentioned in the honours list and I appreciate the recognition of my 29 years of involvement with the RNLI and its archives.’

Barry’s connection to the RNLI began back in 1986 when he was seconded from NatWest Bank to help create an RNLI Library and Archive. Despite having no professional training, Barry is a keen bibliophile and is fascinated by history, taking on this challenge with enthusiasm and dedication. 

Barry took on the task of sorting hundreds of boxes of artefacts, documents and files which had accumulated over the years, and now cares for the historical material in the library which he has sole responsibility for creating. Over the years Barry has worked with the Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society; during which his special relationship with these supporters, helped to encourage donations for the library and the conservation work involved.

Barry is considered a leading expert on RNLI history and contents of the archive and library and is affectionately known as ‘Uncle Barry,’ the go to man for any difficult questions, having answered thousands of enquiries, internal and external, and supported the research for countless books written to support the RNLI.

Barry himself has written and had published two RNLI books (Lifeboat Gallantry and A Lifeboat Year) which are of huge value for documenting the history of the RNLI.

Due to Barry’s dedication and hard work in producing a professional archive, the early records of the RNLI have recently been recognised as of national importance by UNESCO. These records which are of huge importance to the RNLI would have been lost or destroyed was it not for Barry’s devotion and commitment.  Barry’s passion and enthusiasm has enthused other volunteers to join him, which is gratefully received at a time when enquiries continue to grow.

Notes to editors

  • Photo credit: RNLI/Evie Prescott

For more information please contact the RNLI Press Office on tel: 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland