Former Ipswich firefighter Keith Ottywill awarded a British Empire Medal

Retired firefighter Keith Ottywill has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to education

Retired firefighter Keith Ottywill has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to education in the New Year's Honours list. - Credit: Su Anderson

A retired Ipswich firefighter who has taught special needs schoolchildren lifesaving skills every week for more than 25 years has been honoured in the New Year’s Honours list.

Keith Ottywill, 65, of Castle Road, said he was “shocked, but delighted” after being awarded a British Empire Medal for services to education.

Mr Ottywill, who joined the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service as a boy cadet in 1966 and retired in 2011, has volunteered at Centre Academy East Anglia in Brettenham, near Stowmarket, every Wednesday evening since 1990.

He has helped the small day and boarding school for children with special educational needs establish a school fire crew and provides demonstrations on firefighting. He said: “Receiving the award has been a surprise because you carry on with your life as normal and then all of a sudden this comes out. I am shocked but delighted.

“I’m in my 26th year now of volunteering and I still enjoy it. What always puts a smile on my face are the prize-giving open days because many mums and dads say they never thought their son or daughter would be able to gain these skills.”

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Many of the young people he helps suffer with severe dyslexia or have been bullied and, as a result, lack confidence. But he has taught them both the theory and hands-on skills needed to deal with fires, as well as how to work as a team and the art of leadership, which has increased their confidence.

Mr Ottywill, a father-of-two, dedicated the award to his late wife Hilary, who died aged 64 last year.

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