Donate now

Newbiggins first female crew calls for new volunteers

Lifeboats News Release

Newbiggin RNLI is proud to announce that Jess Harvey has passed out as the first female crew to qualify on the new competence based training at this station in its 170-year history. Now Jess is calling on others to consider volunteering with the charity to help save lives at sea.

Jess getting ready to go to sea

RNLI/Richard Martin / Newbiggin RNLI

Jess Harvey

Jess joined the station in the summer of 2019, and despite a slow start due to the Covid pandemic, she persevered and committed a significant amount of time to her training, both ashore and afloat on the station’s lifeboat Richard Wake Burdon, as well as at the RNLI College at Poole.

Reflecting on her achievement, Jess said: ‘I want to thank the whole station who have supported me in my progression in becoming competent crew and notably the first female fully substantive crew in the station’s 170 history at Newbiggin. I’m hoping to take my training even further and become the first female helm here.”

“I’ve lived in Newbiggin all my life. When we were kids my dad would take me and my brother fishing – he always told us how important it was to be safe around water. My brother’s been on the crew a few years now, and during lockdown I thought “I’d like to do that too”. Covid meant it took a while to get going, but the last year has been brilliant.”

Historically, the role of women at Newbiggin is legendary. For more than 100 years an all-female team launched and recovered the lifeboat by hand until the arrival of modern tractors to do the job. In 1927 the Women of Newbiggin received a Vellum Certificate award for a particularly arduous launch - something they repeated in 1940 during the Second World War with an overland launch of the lifeboat in a winter storm.

Operations Manager John Bryan said “It is an historic day for our lifeboat station, as Jess has become the first woman crew member in the station’s history. Everyone at the station would like to congratulate Jess on this achievement and wish her continuing success in her development.

‘We are also looking to bolster our volunteer team here so if you're interested in joining us then call down to the station either Tuesday evenings or Sunday mornings.’

Jess adds: ‘Everyone’s been so supportive. I’d recommend joining the station and volunteering to anyone - it’s given me more confidence than I ever knew I had.’

Click on the links to find out more and apply for the volunteer roles of Deputy Launching Authority, Inshore Lifeboat Crew and Shore Crew.

The 'Newbiggin Women' hauling the lifeboat in 1940

RNLI/Richard Martin

Newbiggin Women Launchers
Crewed and ready to launch

RNLI/Richard Martin

Jess Harvey
A cover from the Illustrated on Newbiggin's Women

London Illustrated 1941

Newbiggin's Women Lifeboat Launchers

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.

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 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.