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Torbay RNLI Coxswain honoured in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Lifeboats News Release

The Coxswain of Torbay RNLI has been awarded with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Buckingham Palace for his enduring service to Maritime Safety.

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Torbay Coxswain Mark Criddle OBE

Mark Criddle, who is Brixham born and bred, said he was ‘humbled’ and ‘honoured’ to be named in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Mark is a highly regarded and well respected leader who has given almost 30 years of unwavering support to the RNLI. During this time he has held various roles, including mechanic and trainer, taking on the role of Coxswain in 2002. He has launched on service more than 400 times since taking on the role to a series of dramatic rescues and is the RNLI’s most decorated serving Coxswain.

He says:

‘I am honoured and humbled to receive such an honour and I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to my wife and family who have committed as much time as I have to the RNLI over the last 30 years. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with and I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive family and outstanding crew to serve alongside at Torbay RNLI.’

On the evening of 13 January 2008 Mark’s courage, leadership and outstanding seamanship resulted in him being awarded a silver medal for gallantry for the rescue of eight crew from the cargo ship Ice Prince, bound for Egypt from Sweden. The Greek registered vessel was in difficulty 31 miles out in the English Channel with over 5,200 tons of timber aboard. The Ice Prince was pitching and rolling severely in south westerly force 9 winds and the horrendous conditions shifted the timber cargo, causing her to list by 45 degrees.

The Torbay crew aboard the all weather lifeboat Alec & Christina Dykes were initially tasked to attend and stand by on scene, assisted by Salcombe RNLI and Coastguard Rescue helicopter. However, as the RNLI volunteer crews made their way towards the Ice Prince, the situation became increasingly serious. Lives were in immediate danger and it took the lifeboat and its crew, led by Mark, more than 50 runs alongside the vessel to get the crew of the Ice Prince safely on board. Mark and his crew were subsequently awarded the Pride of Britain Emergency Services Award for their outstanding efforts that night.

Later that same year, his efforts made a difference to local families when his quick thinking saved the lives of three local teenagers whose capsized canoe was found near Thatcher Rock. The force 5/6 north easterly winds had swamped the canoe and the now hypothermic teenagers had been in the water for 35 minutes before he brought them to safety.

Nigel Jones, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager says Mark is richly deserving of this recognition;

‘Mark is a true leader, his professionalism and fair manner mean that he has the utmost respect of not only his crew and station volunteers but of those around the country.

‘His natural charm and passion for the RNLI shines through in his role as ambassador for the charity. His tireless work to champion improvements in the lifesaving service and the charity’s safety campaigns is commendable and he never fails to inspire people to support the work of the crew and fundraisers.

‘We are extremely proud of Mark and delighted that his qualities and hard work have been recognised.’

Alongside his commitment to the RNLI, Mark volunteers with and inspires young people with his work at Brixham Rugby club, Brixham Sea Anglers Club and takes great pride in helping with school visits throughout Torbay.

RNLI Chief Executive, Paul Boissier said:

‘The RNLI depends on the commitment, courage and skills of its volunteers, fundraisers and staff and I am delighted to see Mark among the RNLI volunteers recognised in this years’ Queen’s Birthday Honours. It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of these amazing people who do so much to help us continue our lifesaving work.’

RNLI media contacts

For more information contact Emma Haines, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on 07786 668847 or Vicki Bowen, volunteer lifeboat press officer at Torbay RNLI, on 07794 043428 or vicki_bowen@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI Duty Press Officer on 01202 336789

Nigel Millard

RNLI/Jon Stokes

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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