Chiswick Lifeboat Crew To Play Key Role in RNLI's Bicentenary

Scroll pledge blessed at Westminster Abbey commences journey at station

The RNLI Chiswick Lifeboat on a previous callout. Picture: RNLI

March 4, 2024

This Monday (4 March) the RNLI is marking its 200th anniversary with a special thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

It will see the blessing of a scroll bearing the RNLI pledge which will be passed through RNLI communities including lifeboat stations, lifeguard units and fundraising branches around the UK and Ireland and signed by representatives at each location on its route. The ‘Connecting our Communities’ relay-style event is a key part of the bicentenary celebrations.

Before it begins its journey, the scroll will be signed by the RNLI President, HRH The Duke of Kent, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dean of Westminster, the RNLI’s Chair and the RNLI’s Chief Executive.

Crew and volunteers from the Chiswick RNLI station, the second busiest in the country will be at the Abbey and will be taking the scroll on the first part of its journey.

At Chiswick the scroll will be signed by John Soones BEM JP, chair of Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat Management Group, who said, ‘The RNLI @ 200 is an incredible organisation filled with selfless, heroic people who put others before themselves. I am proud of my contribution, but even prouder of all those around me.’

The pledge reads, ‘Whoever we are, wherever we are from, we are one crew, ready to save lives. We’re powered by passion, talent and kindness, like generations of selfless lifesavers before us. This is our watch, we lead the way, valuing each other, trusting each other, depending on one another, volunteering to face the storm together. Knowing that, with courage, nothing is impossible. That is what has always driven us to save every one we can. It's what makes every one of us a lifesaver.’

Beneath the pledge, printed in seven languages (English, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Ulster Scots, Manx, and Cornish), it says, ‘Signed in 2024 by representatives of the RNLI’s lifesaving communities, on behalf of all who strive to save every one.’

Over the course of seven months, the five-metre-long scroll will pass through 240 RNLI locations around the UK and Ireland before finishing its journey in October at Douglas on the Isle of Man, which was home to the RNLI’s founder, Sir William Hillary. By this time, it will carry around 700 signatures.

The scroll has been made bespoke, involving RNLI craftspeople and using materials of significance to the charity. The wooden handle has been made by a carpenter from the RNLI’s All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole (where the charity builds and maintains its all-weather lifeboats), using wood from an old flagpole from Ramsey lifeboat station on the Isle of Man. Apprentices from the RNLI’s Inshore Lifeboat Centre on the Isle of Wight have made the protective fibreglass casing and set the scroll spindles and accessories into the case.

Anjie Rook, RNLI Associate Director, who is overseeing the RNLI’s 200th anniversary programmes, says, ‘The Connecting our Communities relay is one of the most significant events of the RNLI’s 200th anniversary year as it’s all about our people. For 200 years, it is people who have made the RNLI what it is – from our brave lifesavers who risk their lives to save others, to the committed fundraisers and generous donors who fund our lifesaving work.

‘We asked our communities to express interest in participating in this event and we have been overwhelmed by the response – we’re thrilled to have representation from our stations, lifeguard units and fundraising branches across the UK and Ireland.

‘Everything about the scroll – from the design and materials, to the wording printed on it and the locations it’s travelling to – reflects the communities we serve. By the end of the relay we will have an important document which will become part of the charity’s history and a significant snapshot of the charity as it stands at 200 years old.’

When the seven month-long journey is complete, the scroll will be displayed in the RNLI College in Poole, where the charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards are trained.

The RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and witnessed many shipwrecks, and the charity has been saving lives at sea for 200 years. Since its foundation, it claims to have saved over 146,000 lives.

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station was founded in 2002, one of four stations to provide a dedicated 24/7 search and rescue service on the tidal Thames. Total launches of Chiswick lifeboat are approaching 5,000 and its crews have saved well over 100 lives.

A spokesperson from Chiswick RNLI says, ‘The RNLI has been saving lives for 200 years and on the Thames for 22 years. Since January 2002 Chiswick lifeboat has been the second busiest lifeboat station in the UK, its flank station in central London, Tower, is the busiest. Many of the crews on the Thames come from stations on the coast and have passed on their skills as well as the traditions and ethos of the RNLI to the new generation of London lifeboat crews.’

As part of the RNLI’s 200th anniversary fundraisers are hosting the Chiswick RNLI Inaugural Gala Dinner on 21 March, an evening of celebration and support for the Chiswick RNLI, featuring a talk and Q&A with Special Guest Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE. Tickets can be purchased here.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, says, ‘It has been an honour and a privilege to be at the helm of the RNLI for the past five years, and to see the charity reach its bicentenary. For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable. It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two World Wars and, more recently, a
global pandemic.

‘Today, we mark the bicentenary of the RNLI. We remember the achievements and commitment of all those who have been part of the RNLI family over the past two centuries; we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, based on our 200 years of learning, expertise and innovation, and we hope to inspire future generations of lifesavers and supporters who will take the RNLI into its next century and beyond.

‘I am immensely grateful to everyone who is involved with the charity – our volunteers, supporters and staff. This is our watch and it is our role to keep our charity safe and secure so it can continue to save lives into the future, as we strive in our vision to save every one.’
Throughout its bicentenary year, the charity is running events and activities to remember its important history and celebrate the modern lifesaving service it is today, while hoping to inspire generations of future lifesavers and supporters.

For further information about the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, visit

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