The Queen laughed and quipped ‘that’s terrible’ as she was reminded that she took a lifesaving course 80 years ago.
Joining a video call with lifeguards from the Royal Life Saving Society, the monarch was in good spirits just a few weeks after Prince Philip’s funeral.
She recollected becoming the first young person in the Commonwealth to receive a junior lifesaving award, although she didn’t know it at the time.
As a 14-year-old the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, earned her junior respiration award in February 1941, after completing training at a gentlemen’s club in central London, where she had swimming lessons with her sister Princess Margaret.
During the video call held last Thursday, the Queen said: ‘I didn’t realise I was the first one. I just did it, and had to work very hard for it. It’s a very long time ago, I’m afraid, I think it’s changed a lot.’
Clive Holland, deputy Commonwealth president of the society, reminded her: ‘Your Majesty, when you say it was a long time ago, it was in fact 80 years ago.’
To this, the Queen laughed and said ‘that’s terrible’.
The monarch turned 95 last month in a sombre birthday marred by the pandemic and the death of her husband of 73 years.
The conversation with the lifeguards, who have all been recognised for saving swimmers, was the first time she’s been filmed speaking to the public since the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Sarah Downs, 20, 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.
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.
‘But 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.’
Ms Downs, a physiotherapy student at Manchester Metropolitan University, won the society’s Russell Medal after resuscitating a boy at Middlemoor Pool in Exeter.
The Russell Medal is awarded annually to someone under 18 for displaying bravery and quick-thinking under pressure.
Ms Downs said that a boy had a fit underwater as she was getting some arm bands.
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.’
The Queen also praised the bravery of another young lifesaver, Tanner Gorille, from Cape Town, 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.
The Queen is 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.
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