Harwich RNLI appoint first female full-time coxswain in the charity’s history

Lifeboats News Release

Di Bush has been appointed Full-Time Coxswain for Harwich RNLI, the first woman in the charity’s almost 200-year history to hold the position..

Harwich RNLI

Di Bush

Having been the station’s full-time mechanic since 2017, Di will be taking over as Coxswain on 1 September from Neal Sandquest, who stood down in July.


Di started her life with the RNLI in 2003 when she joined as a volunteer at Falmouth RNLI in Cornwall, working her way up to becoming an Atlantic 75 helm, and a volunteer mechanic on the station's Severn class lifeboat. In 2017 she joined Harwich RNLI as full-time mechanic, becoming the first woman in the charity’s history to hold that role. Along with her full-time role, she was also a helm and 2nd coxswain. A highly qualified mariner outside the RNLI, Di was previously the Coxswain aboard the Star of Life, South West Ambulance’s service vessel, providing medical cover to the outer Scilly Isles.


On the appointment, Harwich Lifeboat Operations Manager, Peter Bull, 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.’


‘This good news creates a further opportunity, as a new full-time mechanic is needed to replace Di when she takes up her new role on 1 September. Anyone who feels they have the skills to take on this challenging but rewarding role is encouraged to apply at: https://jobs.rnli.org/vacancy/mechanic-harwich-453968.html.'


Area Lifesaving Manager Graeme Richardson, commented: ‘I am so pleased to welcome Di into the role of Coxswain, with her vast experience and qualifications. Having served as mechanic for four years, she has already made a significant contribution to lifesaving at Harwich and South Suffolk which the station serves.’


Peter Bull (LOM), went on to say: ‘I am looking forward to working alongside Di, who is well liked and respected on station, has a wealth of knowledge, and a desire like myself to ensure Harwich RNLI continues to be a welcoming environment for all volunteers, where their abilities can flourish.’


Women have played a key role in the RNLI’s success since its formation in 1824 – from famous lifesavers like Grace Darling to behind the scenes roles raising funds to keep the charity afloat. And representation has improved hugely since 1969, when Elisabeth Hostvedt became the first fully qualified woman on a lifeboat crew.


Sue Kingswood, RNLI Inclusion and Diversity Manager, 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.'.


Anyone wishing to join Di and the team at Harwich RNLI, or who would like to find out if they have what it takes to save lives at sea, can contact Peter at peter_bull2@rnli.org.uk


Notes to Editor

Harwich’s Severn class all-weather lifeboat Albert Brown was the first operational one in the fleet some 25 years ago in 1996 (another first for Harwich). A fundraising campaign will start shortly to refit and update the Albert Brown to ensure it is fit for another 25 years of saving lives at sea.

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact:

Richard Wigley, RNLI Harwich volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07903424698 or richard_wigley@rnli.org.uk,

Clare Hopps, Regional Media Officer on 07824518641 or clare_hopps@rnli.org.uk or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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