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John’s walk for the RNLI – 65 years after his dramatic rescue

Lifeboats News Release

In 1957, John Holden was saved by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Now, to mark the 65th anniversary of his rescue, John is walking from Littlehampton to Worthing and back in aid of the charity that saved his life.

John Holden

RNLI/Beth Brooks

John Holden

John was just 14 years old on 14 July 1957 when he visited Littlehampton from Teddington, in south-west London, on a Sunday school trip. Playing with friends just off Littlehampton East Beach on an inflatable, John was quickly swept out to sea. Unable to swim and with an offshore wind taking him increasingly further away from the beach, John was in desperate need of help. The emergency services were contacted – and a cold, shocked and very relieved John was rescued by an RNLI lifeboat crew.

John, who is now 79, has never forgotten that day. Since his rescue, he has been a volunteer and fundraiser for the RNLI, first for his local Twickenham, Teddington and District RNLI Fundraising Branch and then later, when he moved to Littlehampton, for Littlehampton RNLI’s Fundraising Branch.

For his challenge, on 16 July 2022, John will walk 19km (12 miles) from Littlehampton RNLI Lifeboat Station, in Fisherman’s Quay, to Sea Lane Café, in Goring-by-Sea, and back. John plans to set off about 6.30am and will be cheered along by family, friends and supporters.

He said: ‘I have never been able to thank the RNLI, and the volunteer crew on the lifeboat, enough for rescuing me that day. Without them, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here. That’s why I have been so thankful and have tried to do as much as I can for the RNLI ever since.

‘I got a replacement ankle last year, but that hasn’t put me off! I’ve been training – a trial run of the route took me seven hours and 45 minutes. I was also given some free sessions at the gym at Littlehampton Wave, which I have used a few times.

‘The RNLI protects us all. The water is an unpredictable environment that can catch people out. People will always need the RNLI’s help and they will always be there to answer the call. By supporting my challenge and donating to a much-loved charity, you really will help save lives.’

Inflatables are one of the most common reasons for the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguard teams to be called into action. If you’re bringing an inflatable to the beach this summer, please remember to:

• Choose a lifeguarded beach
• Use your inflatable close to shore and between the red and yellow flags
• Make sure children are supervised
• Never use inflatables in big waves or when an orange windsock is flying
• If you see someone in trouble, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Find out more about John’s challenge at:

For more safety advice, whatever your activity or experience, see:


RNLI media contacts

Beth Brooks, Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer, Littlehampton RNLI 07544 209256 [email protected]

Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer, London and South East 07785 296252 [email protected]

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

John Holden

RNLI/Beth Brooks

John Holden

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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.