The Queen said "it was very grand" having the honor from the Royal Life Saving Society

By Simon Perry
May 10, 2021 09:27 AM
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The Queen became the first young person in the Commonwealth to achieve the @rlsscw
Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Kensington Palace (2)

Queen Elizabeth to the rescue!

In a recent video call, the monarch, 95, proudly recalled the special award she received as a teen from the Royal Life Saving Society, the U.K.'s leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education.

As a 14-year-old in 1941, the then-Princess Elizabeth earned her junior respiration award after completing training at a club in London where she and her sister Princess Margaret took swimming lessons.

During her virtual chat on May 6 with the Royal Life Saving Society, the Queen also learned that she was the first teen to receive the award 80 years ago — and she had the badge sewn onto her swimsuit.

"I didn't realize I was the first one — I just did it and had to work very hard for it!" she said on the call.

"It was a great achievement and I was very proud to wear the badge on the front of my swimming suit. It was very grand, I thought," she continued.

As Princess Elizabeth, she became the first young person in the Commonwealth of nations linked to the U.K. to achieve the Society's Junior Respiration Award, "providing an example to young people and helping to establish lifesaving and resuscitation qualifications across the network of nations," Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Monday.

The Queen has been getting back to work since the official period of mourning ended following the death of her beloved husband of 73 years, Prince Philip on April 9.

The Queen speaks to the Royal Life Saving Society
The Queen at Windsor Castle making the call
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

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Joining the Queen on her call was Clive Holland, Deputy President of the Royal Life Saving Society, and joined by Dr. Stephen Beerman in Nanaimo, Canada, recipient of the Society's 2020 King Edward VII Cup, as well as lifesavers Tanner Gorille from Cape Town, South Africa, and Sarah Downs from Exeter, U.K.

Gorille and Downs told the Queen about their respective rescue efforts, which led to them both receiving the Society's Russell Medal for saving a life via resuscitation. The Russell Medal is awarded annually to someone under 18 years of age, for displaying bravery and quick-thinking under pressure. Sarah Downs received hers in 2018 after performing CPR on a young boy who got into difficulties whilst she was on duty at Middlemore Pool in Exeter. Tanner Gorille was recognized for his bravery in 2016 after performing resuscitation on a young woman whilst on volunteer lifeguard duty.

The Queen speaks to the Royal Life Saving Society
The Queen talking to the Royal Life Saving Society
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

The Queen also used the call to virtually present Dr. Stephen Beerman with the King Edward VII Cup, awarded every two years in recognition of outstanding contributions to drowning prevention. In more than 40 years of work he has highlighted drowning as a major public health issue, from undertaking research on the ground in the hardest hit countries, to implementing Canada's first Drowning Prevention Plan.

"I'm very delighted to be able to present you with this cup – a very large cup, which one day you might see if you come to London," she told Dr. Beerman.  

The Royal Life Saving Society was founded in London in 1891 in response to the hundreds of preventable drownings happening in the U.K. Drowning remains one of the biggest causes of preventable death in the world, with an estimated 235,000 deaths every year, of which 90 percent occur in low and middle-income countries.

The Queen's virtual meeting with the Royal Life Saving Society comes as the United Nations have adopted a historic Resolution on Drowning Prevention, representing the formal acknowledgement of drowning as one of the biggest causes of preventable death in the world today. The Resolution — spearheaded by Bangladesh and Ireland — sets out specific actions for each country to take to prevent drowning, and introduces an annual World Drowning Prevention Day, which will be marked for the first time this year on July 25.