Redbridge Dippers swimming club stalwart, 96, honoured with British Empire Medal

Hilda Lyons, 96, won a British Empire Medal for her services to disabled people in Redbridge.

Hilda Lyons, 96, won a British Empire Medal for her services to disabled people in Redbridge. - Credit: Archant

A volunteer who dedicated much of her life to providing people with disabilities the chance to swim received a birthday present like no other.

Swimming club Redbridge Dippers’ president Hilda Lyons, of High Road, South Woodford, celebrated her 96th birthday on Saturday as she was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The former corsetiere, a founder of the club in 1977, started off as a coach, then became secretary and treasurer, before becoming president in 1999.

“It’s a great honour, it feels fantastic,” said Hilda, who was awarded for services to disabled people in Redbridge.

“We worked very hard and initially we decided that it would be a swimming club for adults with disabilities, but now we cover all ages and we have a trained instructor.”

She added: “We have brought a lot of glory to the borough – we have won over 300 medals.”

The club, which swims at Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre, High Street, Barkingside, came about after Hilda saw “there was nothing in the borough” to allow disabled people the chance to swim.

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“When I moved here from Loughton, I thought ‘you have got to do something’,” said the pensioner, who had a heart attack in April.

“The members at Redbridge Dippers are all very grateful as there was nothing in the borough before.”

Hilda, who served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, said giving back came natural to her.

“I know the Redbridge Dippers appreciate what I have done but I have done other things from when I moved here.

“I used to go around with my son in his push chair and I used to do shopping for elderly people when I came out of the forces.”

She added: “If I do something I’m dedicated and I have always tried to help people less fortunate than myself – that’s what life is about.”