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Long-serving Gravesend RNLI crew member attends Buckingham Palace garden party

Lifeboats News Release

Thames Commander Andy Colley has served the River Thames as part of Gravesend RNLI for two decades and was invited to a special garden party at Buckingham Palace, to celebrate 200 years of RNLI lifesavers.

A man stands on the left and a woman on the right. The man wears a formal dark suit, with one medal on his right breast and 5 on his left. He wears an RNLI logo tie and an RNLI pin on his lapel. He smiles to the camera and has his arm around the woman. She wears a white and pink dress, with a white sheer cardigan and and white bag hangs on her left shoulder. They stand in front of Buckingham Palace.

RNLI/Andy Colley

Andy Colley, Thames Commander at Gravesend RNLI lifeboat station, at the Buckingham Palace with his wife Sharon.

Andy, who joined Gravesend Lifeboat Station in 2004, two years after the station opened, attended the event on behalf of Gravesend RNLI yesterday, on Thursday 23 May. He said:

‘It was an honour, a privilege, and a pleasure to attend the garden party at Buckingham Palace with my wife, Sharon, to celebrate both the 200th anniversary of the RNLI, and the dedication, sacrifice and achievements of all that have contributed, past and present, to saving lives at sea.’

Andy was recently awarded his 20-year Long Service Medal, an award for those that have served key milestones of 20 years and beyond. The medal pictures the RNLI founder, Sir William Hillary. During his time on the Gravesend RNLI lifeboat crew, Andy has also been awarded a Lifesaving Operations Director Commendation. He added:

‘I joined the RNLI lifeboat crew after 22 years in the British Army. I wanted a new challenge, and to do something worthwhile. The RNLI motto of ‘saving lives at sea’ really resonated with me. I knew that, as a lifeboat crew member, I could contribute to making a positive difference. It's safe to say that the crew at Gravesend Lifeboat Station have most certainly done that, having saved 77 lives between 2002 and 2023.’

The party was held by HRH The Princess Royal, accompanied by Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and RNLI President HRH The Duke of Kent. It was attended by around 2,500 of the RNLI’s long-serving volunteers, staff and their families. The party also featured an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat in the palace grounds, almost identical to Gravesend RNLI’s Olive Laura Deare II.

Since the RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824, following an appeal to the nation from Sir William Hillary, the charity has saved more than 146,277 lives – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

  • More information about the RNLI’s 200 years of lifesaving can be found here

  • For information on how to volunteer for the RNLI visit here

Notes to Editor

Gravesend is one of the RNLI’s newest lifeboat stations and one of four lifeboat stations operating on the River Thames – the first stations to specifically cover a river rather than estuarial waters or the sea.

Our lifeboat is Olive Laura Deare II, an Atlantic 85 B class inshore lifeboat, which is one of the fastest types in the fleet.

RNLI Media Contacts

For further information, please contact:

Helena Lane, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer for Gravesend RNLI on 07809 683883 or email [email protected]

Hatti Mellor, Regional Communications Manager – SE & London, RNLI 07724 801305 or email [email protected]

Julie Rainey, Regional Media Manager (South East), on 07827 358 256 or email [email protected]

RNLI Press Office on 01202 336 789 or email [email protected]

A man stands in front of a navy van with Connecting Our Communities written on, and lifeboat and RNLI logos on. He is wearing an inshore lifeboat crew kit: a yellow drysuit, and red lifejacket. He holds a large orange box in front of him with both hands, and smiles at the camera.


Andy Colley, Thames Commander at Gravesend RNLI lifeboat station, dressed in inshore lifeboat crew kit and holding the RNLI 200 Connecting our Communities Scroll in March 2024.
The picture shows three men dressed in dark blue and black, and shirts bearing the RNLI Lifeboats logo. All men are smiling and looking at the camera. The man on the right is shaking hands with the man in the middle. The man in the middle holds a small black and white case, bearing a silver medal.


Thames Commander Andy Colley (centre) receiving his 20-year Long Service Medal, presented by Gravesend RNLI Station Manager Ian Smith (right), and RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager Neil Withers (left).

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.