Gordonstoun’s Fire Service receives Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Thursday 2 June 2022

Gordonstoun’s volunteer Fire Service has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

Gordonstoun is the only school in the UK to have its own Fire Service, which consists of students and staff who crew the school’s own fire engine. They respond to emergencies as part of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Most recently, the students helped to put out a gorse fire and dampened down after a fire in an abandoned mill. 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.

Gordonstoun’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 seventeen! 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.”

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. 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.”

Area Commander Chay Ewing is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Officer for Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray. He said

“Being a firefighter is a noble service and profession which teaches invaluable life-saving skills, enhances personal development and encourages strong values of care for the welfare of others. Volunteer firefighters are exceptional individuals who protect their communities when they are needed most and I would like to thank our volunteer firefighters at Gordonstoun for their dedication and commitment. 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.”

Head of Senior School and volunteer firefighter Richard Devey said,

“All our volunteer student and staff firefighters carry pagers and are expected to drop everything when called upon to attend an incident. 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. I have seen how this responsibility brings out the best in young people and there have been times when they have spurred me on during long call-outs as well as the other way around! 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.”


More information on the recipients and the Award can be found at: https://gavs.dcms.gov.uk/

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Eleanor Bradford

  • Email: bradforde@gordonstoun.org.uk
  • Tel: 01343 837763
  • Mobile: 07860 557682


The Gordonstoun fire unit was started in 1942 by a student after the entire school had been evacuated from Moray to Wales. The first appliance was an Austin 7 car, painted red and equipped with a ladder, later replaced with a Cadillac. After inspection, the unit was accepted into the National Fire Service and has responded to local emergencies ever since. Although Gordonstoun’s Fire Service has attended major incidents, such as the Orton rail crash of 1983, students no longer attend call-outs where there is a danger to life. However, the service still plays an important role in assisting with farm fires, wild fires, floods and other emergencies. Some of the first female firefighters in the UK were students in Gordonstoun’s Fire Service in the 1970s.


Gordonstoun is a not-for-profit independent boarding school which was established in Moray, Scotland in 1934 by Dr Kurt Hahn, a Jewish exile who fled Nazi Germany. He founded the school with the ideal of developing better world citizens equipped to contribute to society. Dr Kurt Hahn was the driving force behind the Outward Bound Movement and also worked with former pupil Prince Philip to establish The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards. Gordonstoun has been a pioneer of character education which, as well as academic subjects, includes outdoor activities, sailing and service to the community. Three generations of British Royalty were educated at Gordonstoun including the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. Approximately one third of the pupils at the co-educational boarding school receive financial help in order to attend. The school was described as ‘outstanding’ and ‘sector-leading’ in its most recent inspection and was voted the best boarding school in the UK in 2021.