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Council to consider honour for volunteer life brigade

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is being considered for one of the most prestigious civic awards in South Tyneside - the Freedom of the Borough.

The rare honour has only been awarded to 9 people or organisations since 1981. If approved by Full Council the Brigade will join The Rt Hon Lord Don Dixon P.C.D.L, The Citizens of Wuppertal and 205 (3rd Durham Voluntary Artillery) Battery Royal Artillery (volunteers) in receiving this prestigious award.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade (SSVLB), who celebrated the 150th anniversary of its formation last year, provides a 24-hour coastal search and rescue back-up in conjunction with HM Coastguard.

Councillor Alan Smith, Mayor of South Tyneside said: "Being granted the Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour to be bestowed on any individual or organisation.

"Throughout its long and unbroken record of lifesaving service South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is credited with having saved over 600 lives from shipwreck.

"For over 150 years the Brigade has gone to the assistance of many hundreds more people in trouble around our shores and has been put on standby on countless occasions.

"The selfless individuals who have served in the Brigade are a credit to the Borough and I am glad that the organisation is to be considered for Freedom of the Borough."

The Borough's volunteer life brigade was officially formed on January 30, 1866, to help the coastguard prevent loss of life on the south side of the River Tyne and the coast as far as Whitburn. It was the first organisation in the world to use the breeches buoy to save lives from a shipwreck.

Every day since its formation the brigade has been ready 24hours a day, 365 days a year, to help those in peril on the sea, along with the HM Coastguard, RNLI lifeboats and other emergency services.

Councillors will vote on whether the SSVLB is to receive the Honorary Freedom of the Borough at a meeting of Full Council on Thursday 9 March.

If agreed, a formal ceremony to mark the occasion will be set for later this year.  


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