Edwin Madron
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE – Edwin Madron, coxswain of the Penlee lifeboat in Cornwall, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith.

Edwin was awarded the RNLI Silver medal for rescuing eight men from HMS Warspite in 1947.

He was the first lifeboatman honoured by This Is Your Life. The King’s Theatre was disguised as the scene of a Lifeboat Day rally, complete with posters and flag-sellers on the steps.

Edwin Madron

Fred Richards greets his friend Edwin Madron, principal subject of This Is Your Life. Eamonn Andrews looks on

unknown source

Unknown source 19 April 1957


This Is Your Life snared a cox’n


LIFEBOAT Coxswain Edwin Madron strolled into what he thought was a lecture hall in London last night.

Then he found himself blinking in the glare of TV arc lights.

For Coxswain Madron was the ‘victim’ of the most elaborate web of deception the BBC has yet spun for its This Is Your Life programme.

Two tickets to Saturday's Rugby match at Twickenham, a television theatre disguised with borrowed flags and posters, and split-second timing all played their part.

Co-operating with the BBC in the hoax were Marshal of the RAF Lord Tedder and Lady Tedder. It was they who invited Cox'n Madron to London for the weekend and asked him if he would stay till Monday evening and come with them to a lifeboat meeting.

Said Lady Tedder: "We told Mr Madron that it would be a bit of a do about lifeboats. My husband might have to say a few words. Mr Madron might have to say a few words. And that's really what it was."

Great deception

The great deception began the moment the producers of This Is Your Life decided they wanted to feature a cox'n for their eve of Lifeboat Day edition.

Sixty-year-old widower Madron, of the Penlee boat, near Mousehole, Cornwall, hero of the famous Warspite rescue ten years ago, was an ideal choice.

He was awarded the RNLI silver medal for saving eight men from the stricken warship which was on her way to the breaker's yard.

In all 68 men owe their lives to Coxswain Madron and his crew. He is a fisherman who lives by the sea. His father and a son were drowned by the sea.

In disguise

But Mousehole (pop. 1,400) is a small community. Coxswain Madron was well known as a keen viewer of This Is Your Life who had often wondered aloud how the "victims" were lured to the studio. He would be extra suspicious.

He was given the Rugby tickets to make sure that he left Mousehole by Saturday - so that his family and friends appearing on the programme could leave for London the next day without his knowledge.

And the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith was disguised as a "town hall". There were Lifeboat Institution banners and notices – and other routine notices of dances and meetings borrowed from Hammersmith town council.

It was not until Eamonn Andrews advanced with outstretched hand and announced: ‘This Is Your Life’ that Coxswain Madron realised that it was his life.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 29
  • Subject No: 29
  • Broadcast live: Mon 18 Apr 1957
  • Broadcast date: 7.30-8pm
  • Venue: King’s Theatre Hammersmith
  • Series: 2
  • Edition: 14

on the guest list...

  • Fred Richards
  • Phil Chivers
  • Joe Madron Snr
  • Stella Bartlett
  • Richard Bartlett
  • Jimmy Madron
  • Edwina Bartlett
  • Bill Curtis
  • Ann Curtis
  • Commander Rodney Wells
  • Owen Kernick
  • William Davis
  • William Dicken
  • William Elcock
  • Captain Alex Baxter
  • Recorded tributes:
  • Johnny Drew
  • Jack Worth
  • Abram Madron
  • Jack Wallis
  • Ben Jeffrey
  • Clarance Williams
  • Joe Madron Jnr

production team...

  • Researchers: Peter Moore, Nigel Ward
  • Writer: Gale Pedrick
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
Series 2 subjects: Peter Scott > Ada Reeve > Peter Methven > Susan Ryder > Harry S Pepper > Compton Mackenzie > Maud Fairman > Billy Smart > Brian Hession > John Barbirolli > Duncan Guthrie > Esmond Knight > Sammy McCarthy > Edwin Madron > Diana Dors > Parry Jones > Percy Flood > G H Elliott > Stuart Hibberd