RNLI appoints first female full-time coxswain 

17 Aug 2021 News

Di Bush, RNLI's first female coxswain

RNLI Harwich

RNLI Harwich has appointed Di Bush as its next full-time coxswain, making her the first woman in the charity’s nearly 200-year history to hold the position. 

The coxswain is the sailor who has charge of a ship's boat and its crew and women have previously held the role at RNLI in a volunteer or part-time capacity. 

Bush has been RNLI Harwich’s full-time mechanic since 2017 and takes over as coxswain in September. 

She started her career with the RNLI as a Falmouth volunteer in 2003. She worked her way up to becoming an Atlantic 75 helm, and a volunteer mechanic on the station's Severn class lifeboat. 

Peter Bull, Harwich lifeboat operations manager, said: ‘I am very pleased to announce that the RNLI has appointed Di Bush as full-time coxswain, the first woman to hold such a role in the charity’s history - and four years after she was appointed the first female full-time mechanic - both here at Harwich. She is well respected on station and will command the Severn class all-weather lifeboat Albert Brown, as well as lead the team.” 

‘The more role models we have the more successful we will be’

Since RNLI was formed in 1824 women have been involved as lifesavers. In 1838, Grace Darling became a national heroine after risking her life to save the stranded survivors of the wrecked steamship Forfarshire. And in 1969, Elisabeth Hostvedt became the first fully qualified woman on a lifeboat crew.

When the lifeboat crew all-weather kit was upgraded in 2018 it was designed to fit men and women, unlike the kit it replaced. 

Sue Kingswood, inclusion and diversity manager at RNLI, said: “We’re working hard to create a more diverse RNLI and a crucial part of that is encouraging women into search and rescue roles. Across our organisation, the more role models we have which represent a greater breadth of diversity, the more successful we will be in our core purpose of saving lives at sea.

“Di is a trail-blazer in this regard and for some years now has been an inspiration to other women, both within the RNLI or thinking about joining our charity.”

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