Gordonstoun’s volunteer fire service has been awarded a prestigious royal award for its efforts.
The crew has been handed The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and equivalent to an MBE.
The Morayshire-based independent school, attended by both Prince Philip and Prince Charles, is the only school in the UK to have its own fire service.
It consists of students and staff who crew the school’s own fire engine and they respond to emergencies as part of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Each of the volunteers carries a pager and is expected to drop everything when called upon to attend an incident.
Most recently, the students helped to put out a gorse fire and dampened down after a fire in an abandoned mill.
Head of senior school and volunteer firefighter Richard Devey said: “This teaches young people to deal with an emergency in a calm and clear way, be disciplined, co-operate within a team and tackle challenging situations with confidence.
“Our school-based Fire Service benefits both students and the community, and many of our young people continue to volunteer their time in service to others throughout their lives.”
The school-based service was established by students in 1942 to help put out fires during the Second World War, and has continued ever since.
Principal of Gordonstoun, Lisa Kerr, said: “Gordonstoun’s fire service has helped the local community for 80 years, putting out hill fires, farm fires and pumping floodwater out of people’s homes.
“Most importantly, by taking part in this service, our students learn the value of putting others before themselves.”
Commenting on the award, she added: “There is no better way of nurturing a sense of responsibility towards the community than by showing students the difference they can make at a young age and we are honoured to have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.”
The school’s fire service is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups across the UK to receive the prestigious award this year.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.
Student volunteer firefighter Fadheela Redpath, who is in her final year at Gordonstoun, said: “When I came to Gordonstoun the fire service was the only service I wanted to join because I felt it really gave me the opportunity to serve the local community, not to mention how cool it is to be trained to fight fires at age 17.
“I have learned how to be a team member from being in the Fire Service and I am learning to be more assertive, and I have had to learn to be louder.
“In a fire situation, whispering “Water on!” is unlikely to be very effective.
“I am hoping to be able to be a volunteer firefighter when I leave Gordonstoun as I want to continue being part of the Fire Service.”
Area commander Chay Ewing, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s local senior officer for Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray, thanked the Gordonstoun crew for their commitment, adding: “They are a pleasure to work with.
“We would urge people from all walks of life who have different skills and experience to consider joining SFRS and to play an important role in your local community.”