Queen recalls becoming first person in Commonwealth to receive lifesaving award 80 years ago

The Queen has shared her memories of becoming the first young person in the Commonwealth to receive a junior lifesaving award from the Royal Life Saving Society.

During a video call with lifeguards from the society last Thursday, The Queen reminisced about earning the junior respiration award in February 1941, when she was a 14-year-old.

She completed the training at a gentlemen’s club in London, where she received swimming lessons with Princess Margaret.

The Queen told the lifeguards that she "didn’t realise I was the first one".

"I just did it and had to work very hard for it. 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."

The Queen is a patron of the Royal Life Saving Society, which was founded in London in 1891 in response to the hundreds of preventable drownings that were happening.

Sarah Downs, 20, a student who saved a little boy’s life when she was on duty as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in Exeter in 2018, asked about her memories of achieving her award.

Speaking about the gentlemen’s club in Mayfair the Queen replied: "Well, it’s a very long time ago.

"I do remember it was of course all done in the Bath Club in the swimming pool.

"And I suppose I didn’t really actually realise quite what I was doing, you know because I think I must have been 12 or something, 12 or 14, or something like that."

The Queen asked Ms Downs, a physiotherapy student at Manchester Metropolitan University, about her own experiences of lifeguarding and how she came to win the society’s Russell Medal in 2018, for resuscitating the boy.

Ms Downs said that the child had a fit under water as she was getting some armbands.

She added: "So when I came back to the shallow end, being notified of this child under the water and then getting him out of the pool, I completed CPR on him to resuscitate and bring him back around."

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The Queen also praised the bravery of another young lifesaver, Tanner Gorille, from South Africa, who won the Russell Medal in 2016 after performing resuscitation on a young woman at one of Cape Town’s tidal pools while on volunteer lifeguard duty.

"That was splendid work you were doing," she said after hearing his story.

During the video call the Queen also virtually presented Dr Stephen Beerman, from Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada, with the King Edward VII Cup, awarded every two years in recognition of outstanding contributions to drowning prevention.

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