The RNLI and the River Thames


The AGM of the Bakers’ Livery Society took place on Monday 27th February at Bakers’ Hall.

A total of 41 liverymen and their guests attended. After tea and coffee on arrival, we descended to the Court Room, where the AGM itself took place in quick time (< 5 minutes), as is customary.

Our guest speaker was Andrew Stewart – who is responsible for visits to the RNLI’s Tower Lifeboat Station, which is on Embankment, just to the east of Waterloo Bridge. The title of Andrew’s talk was ‘The RNLI and the River Thames’. Andrew is a retired barrister, and his ability to speak ‘on his feet’ was put to the test for a few minutes, as ‘technology’ got the better of us!

Whilst we all think we ‘know’ the RNLI, it soon became apparent how little most of us actually did know. For instance:
- There are 237 lifeboat stations in the UK & Ireland, and a total of 349 lifeboats – which made a total of 8228 launches last year, and rescued 7973 people.

- On the River Thames, there are 4 lifeboat stations – the most Westerly being at Teddington, which is the tidal limit of the river. The most Easterly is at Gravesend.

- Tower Lifeboat Station is the only one to be manned 24/7. Unsurprisingly, it has had more launches than any other RNLI station – including 512 in 2016, of which > 50% were at night.

- The audience was asked what were the specific problems associated with the River Thames. A wide range of answers were forthcoming – from pollution to flotsam to swirls/ tidal effects. The biggest issue, it transpired, is temperature – and that it is the very low temperature of the water for most of the year that results in shock and, potentially, death - hence the Launch Time on the River Thames is a max of only 90 seconds.

Andrew provided dramatic video footage of a number of real - life rescues.

Collecting boxes and souvenirs that were available for purchase were placed outside the Courtroom, and generated an additional £132 of income for the RNLI – over and above the £200 donation that we had generated via ticket sales.

The traditional champagne aperitif took place after Andrew’s presentation, before we entered the Hall for a buffet supper.

It was a most interesting and fascinating evening, and Andrew did his best to circulate around all the Livery before, during and after dinner. Once again, Andrew, if you are reading this – very many thanks from all the Bakers.