The RNLI’s Chief Executive has written an open letter to the public after the deaths of two people in Cornwall over the Bank Holiday.

In a page long missive addressed ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, former Navy Officer and Banker to the Queen Mark Dowie explains why he did not put lifeguards on beaches after lockdown.

He says the deaths are not the RNLI’s fault, the health crisis is no-one’s fault – and that the Govt put him in an “impossible situation”.

CCN reported earlier today on how beachfront RNLI staff have been lobbying for weeks to get back on duty.

But charity bosses said they couldn’t because it would put beach guards at risk of catching Covid 19.

Neither of Mondays victims suffered accidents at ordinarily Lifeguarded beaches – so it would have made no difference in those cases whether lifegaurds had gone straight back on duty after lockdown.

But a third man, presently critically ill in hospital, did suffer his accident at Porthtowan, which is usually patrolled.

In his letter of today (Tues 26th May) RNLI Chief Mark again rejected his guards calls to get straight back to the beach and erred firmly on the side of caution.

Although paramedics and coastguards remain on 999 duty – Mark insists he couldn’t risk sending his staff out to give mouth to mouth resuscitaton with Covid still in the air.

Instead in a broadside at PM Boris Johnson he infers strongly that the Govt should now close British beaches.

Here is Mark’s letter to you in full:


Dear Sir/Madam

“Despite our warnings that there were no lifeguards on patrol this weekend, crowded beaches, hot weather and big waves meant our lifeboat crews had their busiest weekend so far this year. At least two people lost their lives.

“This puts the RNLI in an impossible situation. With thousands flocking to English beaches now lockdown restrictions have been eased, we must choose between keeping the public or our lifeguards safe.

“Safety advice and warnings will only go so far when people are desperate to enjoy some freedom after weeks of lockdown.

“As a lifesaving charity, the RNLI cannot stop people going to beaches – but the government can – before more lives are lost around our coast this summer.”

“Rolling out a lifeguard service – especially in a pandemic – is not as simple as putting a lifeguard on a beach. We found out about the easing of lockdown restrictions at the same time and in the same way as the general public. Contrast that with shops, which were given three weeks notice, and even car showrooms have been given seven days warning to prepare.

“We have to work out how to do in-water rescues and give first aid – normally conducted at close quarters and often with people coughing up water. We have to find PPE that will work on a beach and in the water – visors and aprons are no good on a rescue board. And we have to train our lifeguards in procedures to reduce the risk of infection. All this takes time and we learnt of the lifting of restrictions at the same time as everyone else.

“Lifesaving is our priority. But the fundamental sustainability of the charity is also a consideration,” he said, pointing out that local authorities contribute just 20 per cent of the £20 million needed to pay for a normal lifeguard season, with the remaining £16 million coming from RNLI donations.

“No-one is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. We’re asking everyone to help manage an impossible situation, so please follow our safety advice and think before you head to the coast.”

Currently the charity expected to face a £45 million shortfall in funding by the end of the year because of the cancellation of fundraising activities.

“So, we’re asking for help to manage an impossible situation – we’re asking the public to heed our safety advice and we’re asking the government to restrict access to the coast until we have lifeguard patrols back on beaches,” said Mr Dowrie.

“Only then can we keep the public safe from the sea and our lifeguards safe from the virus.”

Who is Mark Dowie?

He started life as a Royal Navy Officer and after around a decade in the ranks went in to Merchant Banking.

Mark notably held a position at Barings Bank, the former bankers to the House of Windsor, now of Rogue Trader Nick Leeson scandal fame

He is a keen sailor and was Lifeboat Operations Manager at Salcombe Lifeboat Station in Devon for 2 years.

Here is his CV:

1982 to 1990 – Royal Navy Officer

1990 to 2004 – Corporate Finance executive to Managing Director with Baring Brothers, Jardine Fleming and UBS. Vice Chairman Investment Banking at UBS.

2004 to 2010 – part-owner and managing director of Marine Services, Sales, Engineering and Fuel Bunkering companies based in Devon.

2011 to 2016 –Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and London. Group Head, Corporate Finance and also Group Head, Financial Markets. Chief Executive Officer, Corporate and Institutional Bank.

Has three adult children with wife Hazel. The Dowies live near Kingsbridge in South Devon. A keen sailor and gyrocopter pilot, he is also a former Justice of the Peace, trustee of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Vice Chairman and trustee of the Britannia Association.

As RNLI Chief Executive he’s paid in the region of £200,000 a year

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