About The Royal Life Saving Society

The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) is a charity registered in the UK with the Charity Commission (number 306094), and is governed by Royal Charter.

We take a leadership role in the 30 Commonwealth countries in which we have a presence. Our accreditation with the Commonwealth Secretariat as a Civil Society Organisation, gives us access to Commonwealth networks, and helps us as we work together with various other organisations across different sectors to support communities in developing lifesaving education initiatives and drowning prevention programmes.

Our motto is ‘Quemcunque miserum videris hominem scias’ which means ‘Whomsoever you see in distress, recognise in them a fellow human being‘.

Milestones in the Society’s history

1891: Renowned swimming champion William Henry founded the Swimmers’ Life Saving Society in London, England, in response to the huge number of drownings that were happening every year. The Society later changed its name to the Life Saving Society.

1892: The Society introduced the Bronze Medallion, still the flagship lifesaving award today. In the same year, 30 lifesaving rescues were recorded, more than half of them by members of the Life Saving Society. 

1893: HRH The Duke Of York, later King George V, became President of the Society, beginning the close association with the Royal Family that continues to this day.

1904: King Edward VII ordered that the Society be recognised as the Royal Life Saving Society.

1924: The Society received its formal Royal Charter from King George V.

1955: The Society resolved to grant greater autonomy over awards and administration to its National Branches and to seek changes to its Royal Charter to allow this.

1960: By a Supplemental Royal Charter the Society was reorganised into five independent self-governing branches: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom; coordinated by a Commonwealth Council with representatives in many other Commonwealth countries.

1967: Malaysia becomes a national branch and joins the Commonwealth Council.

2018: The Society receives its Supplemental Charter and Bye-Laws.  A new membership structure is introduced and Singapore becomes a National Branch and joins the Commonwealth Council.


How the Society is organised

HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO

Our Patron is HM The Queen and our Commonwealth President is HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO.

The Society is managed by a Board of Trustees which is headed by the Deputy Commonwealth President. The Board of Trustees is made up of elected representatives of the three geographical regions of Asia Pacific, the Americas/Caribbean, and Africa/Europe.

The Deputy Commonwealth President is supported by a team of volunteer Directors, each with their own portfolio. Day to day operations are delegated to Commonwealth Headquarters, and supported by a number of sub-committees and working groups.

The Society has a Memorandum of Understanding with, and Observer status to the Board of Directors of the International Lifesaving Federation (ILS).  The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes ILS as the world authority on the global effort to prevent drowning.

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