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RNLI lifeboat Duke of Edinburgh to join Thames flotilla

Lifeboats News Release

A new RNLI lifeboat named Duke of Edinburgh will join more than 150 boats on the River Thames in London this weekend to commemorate the life and 70-year reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

RNLI/Jimmy Young

RNLB Duke of Edinburgh passing along the Thames

Her Majesty was the RNLI’s longest-serving Patron and the illuminated Reflections flotilla will take place on Saturday night travelling the four miles between Chelsea Bridge and Tower Bridge.

The RNLI’s brand new Shannon class lifeboat is named Duke of Edinburgh in memory of Her Majesty’s late husband His Royal Highness The Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh who died in April 2021, and will be among the leading boats as they travel along the Thames through central London.

Onboard Duke of Edinburgh will be volunteer crew from Wells-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk, where the lifeboat will be stationed.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie said: ‘Originally planned to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, this event provides a fitting occasion for the Thames’ river communities, of which the RNLI has been a proud member for 20 years, to express their sadness at the recent death of Her Majesty.

‘The crew from Wells-next-the-Sea, where RNLB Duke of Edinburgh will be on service later this year, are extremely honoured to be part of this commemoration to our longest-serving Patron and a much-loved member of the RNLI family, I would like to thank the organisers, Thames Festival Trust, for nominating the RNLI as the official charity and raising much-needed funds for our new Tower Lifeboat Station at Waterloo Bridge.’

The flotilla, including the rowbarge Gloriana, which was built for the Diamond Jubilee and named by Her Majesty, will depart Chelsea Bridge at 7pm (Saturday 24 September) and travel to Tower Bridge. All 150 boats will be lit up with white lights, creating a ribbon of light down the river. Illuminated River, the world’s longest public artwork, will also be lit with a special display threading tones of purple and silver across its nine bridges, from Lambeth to London Bridge.

Wells Coxswain Nicky King, said: ‘It’s an honour for me and our crew to be part of this special flotilla onboard our brand-new boat, RNLB Duke of Edinburgh, as we pay tribute to our long-standing Patron.

‘To see all the boats and landmarks along the way down the Thames all lit up will be quite a spectacle, and a sight we wouldn’t normally see – it’ll be a very poignant moment.’

The lifeboat also bears the names of nearly 15,000 loved ones submitted through the RNLI’s Launch A Memory campaign.

As the official charity partner of Saturday’s event, funds raised will help fund a new floating boathouse for Tower, the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station located in the heart of London, at Waterloo Bridge, which is due on service next spring. The RNLI has been raising funds to replace the current station as it is no longer fit for purpose since it lacks the facilities the crew need to give the best possible care to those they rescue.

Lifeboats stationed at Tower, Chiswick, Teddington and Gravesend have been saving lives on the Thames for 20 years.

Tower is the busiest RNLI lifeboat station and since opening has launched more than 9,000 times, rescuing more than 2,000 people and saving more than 350 lives.

RNLI/Martin Phillips

RNLB Duke of Edinburgh

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.

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