New Year’s Honour for RNLI Thames safety volunteer

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI volunteer safety officer John Soones has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for his invaluable work in preventing drowning along the Thames and for his efforts in trying to reduce the number of suicides on the river.

John Soones RNLI volunteer safety officer

John Soones

John Soones RNLI volunteer safety officer
John originally joined the RNLI as a Life Governor nearly 40 years ago after the RNLI helped rescue him following a diving accident. In later life he applied to become crew at Chiswick Lifeboat Station but finding himself too old to serve on the lifeboat he became a voluntary Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer.

Working tirelessly with many partner organisations he has helped drive forward a wide range of safety initiatives to help reduce the number of drownings on the river. With Teddington Lifeboat station crew, he was instrumental in setting up the programme to train staff at riverside pubs and clubs on the Thames to use throwlines. This initiative has saved a number of lives on the river and the programme has now been taken up by the RNLI nationally.

A significant proportion of Thames lifeboat launches involve potential suicides. John initiated discussions with the Samaritans and other agencies to address this issue. John is also chair of the British Diving Safety Group. In partnership with the Group the RNLI developed a Diver Sea Survival course now offered at the Lifeboat College in Poole.

John said: ‘I’m delighted that the work I’ve done over the past ten years has been recognised in some way. I’m one member of a very big team – there are a lot of people walking around today who wouldn’t be otherwise because of the work we’ve done.’

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,730 people, and dozens of dogs. The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations.

RNLI media contacts

David Clarke RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer (Chiswick), 07951 21 0500

Paul Dunt, RNLI Press Officer (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825,

For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.