Teddington lifeboat station celebrates 20th anniversary with long-serving crew to get medals

  Posted: 11.01.22 at 15:45 by Ellie Brown

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THIS month, Teddington RNLI Lifeboat Station celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Set up to provide 24/7 cover on a stretch of the Thames including Kingston after a government inquiry into a tragedy on the river, the station is unique among the four on London's river as it is crewed and run entirely by volunteers.

Teddington’s 27-strong lifeboat crew and the 6 to 8 management staff attend mandatory weekly training on Tuesdays and give up at least thirty hours a week to be on call.

Being on call "means they are ready to go within three minutes from when the pager goes" explained Matt Allchurch, Lifeboat Operations Manager for the station.

Matt, an architect who joined the station 12 years ago, says some of the crew give one hundred and ten hours per week.

Among the most dedicated are a trio who have been lifeboat crew from the very beginning: Tim James, Jon Barker and Andy Bell have all given 20 years service.

The three Teddington crew members who have served since the beginning. Left to right: Tim James Jon Barker and Andy Bell (Image: Paul Harries)

They and nine others are set to be honoured with medals recognising their more than 5 years service at the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in June this year.

Matt, a former sailor, was inspired by his uncle - "a lifeboat man" - to join the Teddington station when he moved here, and hasn't looked back.

“It’s a fantastic thing to be doing," he told Nub News.

"There’s amazing comradery. It’s amazing what we’re doing - saving lives on the Thames.

"I think all the crew would say the same."

Teddington RNLI lifeboat operations manager and architect Matt Allchurch (Image: Emma Durnford)

The past year and a half hasn't been easy, however.

There have been challenging shouts (pager alerts) including the famed minke whale which got stuck at the Lock.

"We had our busiest year of service with almost one hundred shouts," said Matt.

“We had to be very careful in covid (sic). We introduced a rota system and limited numbers on shouts. We had issues with people catching covid.

"Despite all that we were only off service for about two hours, which is pretty amazing."

The world's media watched as the crew helped deal with the minke whale at Teddington Lock (Image: Emma Durnford)

"Most shouts are to people and we do a lot of casualty care (we carry medical equipment.)" he continued.

"Most of the people, particularly this year, are vulnerable. We’ve been credited with saving at least one life.

"We also had the minke whale last summer which was unusual and a bit traumatic for the crew - the world’s media were watching their every move and the whale had to be euthanised."

The lifeboat station, based at Teddington Lock, looks after the stretch of river from Molesey Lock to Richmond Lock and is sometimes called to help Chiswick.

"We can get to Hampton Court in 15 minutes, from pager to getting changed to launching and going through the lock," added Matt.

Teddington lifeboat station assisted firefighters dealing with a blaze at Platt's Eyot in Hampton (Image: Teddington RNLI)

In May last year the crew were asked to assist with the emergency service response during a devastating fire on the Hampton island Platt's Eyot.

But while they are most well-known for their quick responses to shouts, Teddington RNLI's influence stretches beyond the river.

The lifeboat station is a familiar presence at Teddington community events including the annual Christmas Lights Up and the Thames River Blessing at Teddington Lock.

Crew are also on hand to educate teenagers about the dangers of cold water swimming, which became a particular problem at the Lock last year.

They also have an energetic local RNLI branch which last year put on comedy nights, fish suppers and online auctions to raise vital funds.

RNLI crew at the Thames river blessing last year

Asked how locals can best support the lifeboat station, Matt said: "They can make donations, which we cannot survive without."

Due to the pandemic there was no party to mark the official 20th anniversary of the station (January 2, 2022).

But with the upcoming May jubilee in June and 12 medals to give out, hopefully the crew will get the celebration they deserve.

Find out more about Teddington Lifeboat Station on the RNLI website: rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeboat-stations/teddington-lifeboat-station/station-history-teddington

You can also follow them on Facebook @RNLITeddington or Twitter @rnli_teddington.

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