Oz Lifeguards To Join Jubilee River Pageant

Jonathan Samuels, Australia correspondent

If Her Majesty gets into any difficulty during the jubilee pageant on the Thames this weekend, 29 surf lifesavers from Australia will be on hand to help.

The group of young lifeguards are representing their country in the flotilla, rowing nine surf boats ahead of the royal barge.

The volunteers, who will be wearing their distinctive red and yellow uniforms, were picked to join in the celebrations from all over Australia.

Ed Hibberd from Carrumbin Surf Lifesaving Club told Sky News: "It's such a great experience I'm sure any one of us would tell you we wouldn't miss it for the world. It's a once in a lifetime thing."

Surf lifesavers in Australia rescue 11,000 people every year. Their techniques are so successful they are copied around the world.

A group of British surf rowers will join their Australian colleagues on the Thames and will be providing the boats.

Caitlin McConnel, 22, the youngest female in the group travelling to the UK, says she is honoured to be part of marking her majesty's milestone.

"She's an incredible asset to not only Britain but also the Commonwealth, and certainly very comforting for all the Commonwealth countries... in terms of the economic turmoil and political changes that have happened in the last few years," she said. 

The surf lifesavers have paid for their own flights. Some held barbeques and other fund-raising initiatives to help cover the cost of their trip.

Her Majesty first met surf lifesavers on Bondi beach in 1954 during her initial visit to Australia as Queen.

During her 60 years on the throne links with the royal family have remained strong. The Duke of Edinburgh is Chief Patron of surf lifesaving.

Australian Allan Kennedy MBE is credited with bringing the surf life saving movement to Great Britain in 1952 - the year the Queen became monarch.

Australia's High Commissioner to the UK John Dauth said: "The participation of Australian surf life savers in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant reflects Australia's wider contribution worldwide.

"Surf life saving is just one of many life-changing ideas to have originated in Australia. And more than a major movement in its own right, it also embodies the nation's unsung heroes across many other industries.

"The Australian volunteer surf lifesavers come from all walks of professional life and that's something we are proud to export overseas."

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