Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Royal Life Saving Society

2016 marks the beginning of a year of celebration for the Royal Life Saving Society throughout the Commonwealth, as we enter our 125th anniversary year.

The Society was founded in 1891 in England by swimming champion William Henry, who was responding to the huge number of drownings happening every year. Two years later, HRH the Duke of York, later King George V, became president of the Society, establishing a royal connection that continues to this day with our current President, HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO and our Patron, HM The Queen.

MASTERToday, the Royal Life Saving Society has Member Branches in 27 Commonwealth nations and is accredited to the Commonwealth Secretariat.

To mark the 125th anniversary, His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent has issued a message to members and volunteers throughout the Commonwealth (the original can be seen here):

“The year 2016 marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Life Saving Society in England. 

Recognizing the death and suffering caused by drowning and determined to reduce it, champion swimmer William Henry, along with others who shared his passion, founded the Society in 1891.

Since then, the Society and its drowning prevention cause have expanded across the Commonwealth and are now firmly established in twenty-seven countries.  Many governments have granted it status as a registered charity, in clear recognition of our humanitarian mission.   

Every day, thousands of dedicated volunteers and a small cadre of professional staff work tirelessly to reduce drowning on behalf of the public at large.   Their dedication has borne fruit.  Over the past 125 years, millions of ordinary citizens have been trained as lifesavers.  Many have found themselves in situations where they have relied on their training and thus saved lives. 

The Society delivers public awareness and education, lifesaving and lifeguard training, survival swimming, risk management, swim instruction and lifesaving sport.  It also advocates for drowning prevention, based on research and sound standards.   These initiatives not only save lives and prevent injury but build character and contribute to civil society, which benefits us all.  

William Henry, Founder of RLSS
William Henry, Founder of RLSS

Member Branches further strengthen our Commonwealth family through the efforts they make to assist other branches to develop and prosper.

The Society has prepared an excellent programme of celebration in which I encourage all Member Branches to take part.  It is a splendid opportunity to honour dedicated volunteers and advance our mission of drowning prevention and a drowning-free Commonwealth.

To that end, I am delighted to announce the establishment of the 125th Anniversary Certificate of Merit.  This one-time award is limited to 125 individuals who have provided distinguished service to the RLSS.   Recipients will be honoured in 2016.

As Commonwealth President since 1978, I am invariably impressed by the leadership demonstrated by the Society and its people, and I know that its energy, dedication, expertise and experience position it well to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.”

A number of initiatives and programmes have been established to mark the 125th anniversary year, and Member Branches throughout the Commonwealth will be holding special anniversary events and activities.

Stay tuned to www.rlsscommonwealth.org for news and updates.

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