Two Welsh RNLI volunteers recognised in the New Year’s Honours

Lifeboats News Release

Two Welsh RNLI volunteers are among those being recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, which has been announced today.

Graham Drinkwater, Holyhead RNLI volunteer is awarded an MBE in this year's New Year's Honours.


Graham Drinkwater

Graham Drinkwater from Holyhead and Robert Harris from Port Talbot have both been awarded the MBE for their years of service and dedication to the RNLI and saving lives at sea. Both Graham and Robbie have served their respected stations as active crew members followed by the responsibility of leading their crew as Lifeboat Operations Managers and managing RNLI operations within their local communities.

Graham Drinkwater from Holyhead was brought up a stone’s throw away from the lifeboat station and he would rush to watch the lifeboat launch whenever the maroons were fired. At the age of 16 he was too young to join the crew, so made his way into the station by taking on shore-based roles before joining the crew at 17.

Graham’s first ever service call came when he was 19 years old, a rescue mission to save the Greek cargo ship Nafsiporos. Unbeknownst to him, this rescue was set to go down in history. He was awarded a medal for bravery after the heroic rescue of 19 crew from a freighter in 100mph hurricane winds and 35-foot waves. Not to be deterred by such a dramatic experience, he went on to give many years of unwavering service to the lifeboat station. Before changing roles from crew member to leading the station’s volunteers as Lifeboat Operations Manager, Graham had assisted 439 lives at sea during his time as crew.

Of receiving the honour Graham said: ‘It is a great honour to be awarded an MBE and it is very humbling. It is a reflection on all RNLI volunteers that I have served with over many years and hopefully many years to come. It is not something that can be done on your own.’

Robert Harris, fondly known as Robbie, from Port Talbot has also been awarded the MBE.

Robbie is an outstanding individual who has volunteered at Port Talbot Lifeboat Station for over 34 years. He recently stepped down from the important role of the day to day running of the station as Lifeboat Operations Manager having served in various roles at the station over the years. His extensive local knowledge, experience and professionalism enabled him to develop an excellent team with many of the current lifeboat crew having come through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. For many years he has coached these youngsters from shy teenagers to the crew of the future.

During his own 13 years on the crew he took part in many rescues. The most notable rescue was in 1995 when he was awarded an RNLI gallantry medal for his courage, initiative and seamanship when he was transferred to a converted ships lifeboat which had been disabled in gale force winds and high seas. He was able to secure a tow and provide reassurance to the three persons on board whilst the vessel was taken to safety.

Still in shock of receiving the news, Robbie says: ‘I was totally surprised and taken aback when I was informed of this award. I never expected anything like this to happen to me. I could not have done it without the wonderful support of the crew, past and present and also my management and fundraising teams.’

RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier said: ‘The RNLI depends on the tremendous courage, commitment and skill of its volunteers, staff and fundraisers – and those that have been named in this year’s New Year Honours truly exemplify those qualities. I am immensely proud of all our tireless staff and volunteers who received Honours this year – it is wonderful that these well-deserving people have been recognised in this way, we could not carry on our lifesaving work without them.’

Notes to editor

Attached are photos of Graham Drinkwater, Holyhead RNLI volunteer and Robert (Robbie) Harris of Port Talbot Lifeboat Station.

Credit: RNLI

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For more information contact Eleri Roberts, RNLI Media Officer on 07771 941390 or email Alternatively contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email

Port Talbot RNLI volunteer Robert (Robbie) Harris is awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list.


Robert Harris

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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