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New Chair at the Helm of the RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

It was all change at the helm of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution this week, with Stuart Popham succeeding Charles Hunter-Pease as Chairman of the lifesaving charity.

Stuart was previously Vice-Chair of the charity. He also chairs the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and has been European Vice-Chairman for Citibank for the last five years, prior to which he was a solicitor at Clifford Chance for more than 30 years, the last eight of which as Global Senior Partner.

Stuart has also served as a governor of Birkbeck University, chaired the London region of the CBI and was a trustee of the Barbican Arts Centre. He was made Queen's Counsel, honoris causa, in 2011.

A married father-of-three, Stuart has been a keen sailor since his youth and comes from a long line of seafarers.

Upon accepting the post, Stuart said: “I’m honoured to be given such a fantastic opportunity. I look forward to getting to know even more about the RNLI and meeting so many more of the staff and volunteers.”

Departing Chair, Charles Hunter-Pease was rowed away from RNLI headquarters in Poole, Dorset, in an historic lifeboat to mark the end of his stewardship.

A businessman in the motor industry, Charles worked for Volvo from 1973 until retiring in 2007. He became Senior Vice President of Volvo Car Corporation in Gothenburg in 1993 and was acting as the Senior Adviser to the Management Team of Volvo Car Corporation from 1999. Using his management and business expertise, Charles has served on various RNLI committees as a volunteer over a twenty-year period including fundraising, remuneration and property.

Charles succeeded Lord Boyce as Chairman in July 2013 and has overseen many changes at the RNLI, including the development of the newest lifeboat in the fleet, the Shannon class, which he and Stuart are pictured with.

Reflecting on his time as Chair, Charles said: "The RNLI is about people. It is a wonderful example of all that is good about those who volunteer to save the lives of others and the dedicated support and leadership they get from an immensely professional and caring staff."

Paul Boissier, RNLI Chief Executive, said: “During his time as Chairman, Charles has achieved a massive amount. His inspiration has encouraged staff and volunteers alike to be courageous enough to take on a tough change programme in order to save more lives from drowning.”

Charles and Stuart are pictured standing at the bow of a Shannon Class lifeboat. The portrait was made using a Victorian photographic method that captures images on glass by Jack Lowe, who is photographing all 237 lifeboat crews in the UK and the RoI using this method.

Jack, grandson of Dad’s Army actor Arthur Lowe, also a keen RNLI supporter, said: “As a young lifeboat fan, I used visit RNLI HQ for Open Days. If you had told me then that, one day, I’d be back to make a portrait of the incoming and outgoing chairmen, I would have found it hard to believe. I’m still pinching myself now.”

Notes to editors:

• A normal term of office for the RNLI Chairman is three to five years, subject to an annual reappointment by the Board of Trustees.

• For more details about Jack Lowe’s photographic mission go to

• A press release about Jack Lowe’s Lifeboat Station Project is available here:   

RNLI media contacts:

For more information contact the RNLI Press Office. 01202 336194 /

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland