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Royal Hospital School, near Ipswich, student Lucy Toms celebrates Duke of Edinburgh gold award at Buckingham Palace





A Suffolk student has described the ‘once in a lifetime’ journey that culminated in a celebration at Buckingham Palace.

Lucy Toms spent 10 days in a boat with six strangers, honed her skills with the oboe and learned about military music on her way to achieving her Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) gold award.

The 18-year-old, who attends Royal Hospital School (RHS) in Holbrook, near Ipswich, joined thousands of other youngsters at a special ceremony in London on May 10.

Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS
Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS

The event, which she said was a ‘festival-like’ experience, was one of four to take place over a two day period at Buckingham Palace.

They offered the chance for Edward, Duke of Edinburgh, to highlight the achievements of more than 8,000 people who completed the gold award.

Lucy secured her award with a sailing competition, which saw her and her team weigh anchor from Ipswich, reaching as far as Ramsgate, in Kent.

Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS
Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS

The 10-day excursion, undertaken alongside six strangers, presented the award scheme’s biggest challenges, she said.

There were initial difficulties, such as wanting to give up, Lucy said.

The team learned to support each other through communication, transforming the challenge into a rewarding experience.

Lucy said: “I decided to continue with DofE and take on gold as I believed that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and something that not everyone gets the opportunity to complete.”

Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS
Lucy Toms celebrated her Duke of Edinburgh's Award success at Buckingham Palace. Picture: RHS

For the volunteering segment of the award, Lucy played the oboe as part of a band.

She also attended the British Army Music Summer Academy and gained insight into the Royal Corps of Army Music, which fulfilled the residential section of the award.

Lucy added: “I definitely gained perseverance skills from my expedition, and from my residential, I confirmed that my passion for music extends to military music, and will consider the Army as a career.

“My trip to the palace was very enjoyable, especially having free rain over the gardens and listening to Prince Edward speak to us.”

While at Buckingham Palace, award winners were given the chance to hear from famous DofE Award holders alongside other speakers, such as astronaut Tim Peake, broadcasters Vick Hope and Clive Myrie and TV chef Matt Tebbutt.

Ruth Marvel, chief executive of the DofE Award, said the thousands of young people who attended the events all achieved something exceptional.

It was wonderful to see all of them celebrating together, she said.

Last year saw a record-breaking number of young people begin the award scheme – more than 330,000, Ms Marvel revealed.

Ms Marvel added: “DofE is all about proving to yourself just what you are capable of, and the young people here today have shown the world that their potential is limitless. I can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.

“As a charity, we’re working hard to give as many young people as possible the chance to have a DofE experience.

“We are determined to keep extending our reach until every young person has access to these types of life-changing experiences."