On May 17th 2014 the head of Weston-super-Mare RNLI lifeboat station retires from the RNLI after 40 years’ service. His place as the senior officer of the station is being taken by Charlotte Conroy, an experienced lifeboat crew member and launching authority. She will be only the fifth female Operations Manager in the 236 RNLI lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland.
Pete Holder has been the volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager since 1995 and has now retired after 40 years in the RNLI. His place is being taken by his protégé, Mrs Charlotte Conroy.
Charlotte was born and raised in Weston-super-Mare and still lives in the town, now with her husband and three young sons. She comes from a long line of lifeboat crew. Her grandfather was on the crew, her father was a second coxswain on the Calouste Gulbenkian, the last all weather lifeboat in Weston-super-Mare. Her cousins and brother are also involved. As a child she always spent time around boats, helping with sailing dinghies in Weston Bay and helping the pleasure boats.
After leaving school she spent six months teaching in Kenya , before joining the Royal Navy at BRNC Dartmouth, where she passed out as a commissioned officer in the rank of Midshipman.
After twelve months she decided that the Navy was not for her and left. It was after leaving the RN that Charlotte joined Weston-super-Mare lifeboat crew as the first female crew at the station in 1998. Following 12 years as boat crew, she became one of the launch authorities at the station. This is the highly responsible role of the officer who decides if it is appropriate to launch the lifeboats when a call comes in.
In 1999 she joined Avon and Somerset Constabulary doing 3 years as a PC in Bath, followed by 2 years in Weston. She then joined the CID, currently serving as Detective Constable within the area of Public Protection. Her driving force in joining the police force was that she felt she wanted to make a difference, helping people out in difficult situations.
She is also a keen runner, running many marathons and half marathons each year. Charlotte is 37 years old.
When asked how she managed being the first woman crew member she said; ’I never had anything other than a welcome from the rest of the crew and because of my experience I was always able to hold my own with them.’
She had to leave the boat crew when she became pregnant but continued working with the RNLI both as Education Officer and also with the Fundraising Branch. These other activities continued as her three sons grew.
She has a wealth of memories from being on the lifeboat. In one particular shout the boat went out in thick freezing fog to try to find some fisherman lost in the Bristol Channel. Charlotte was navigating and after a long search they found the two fishermen very distressed in severe difficulties and were able to take then back to safety.
Although she is a hands on mother with a demanding job in the police force she knows she will cope because she knows she has extensive support at home and at the lifeboat station. Her aim with Weston-super-Mare RNLI lifeboat station is to sustain its excellent record so it can carry on saving lives in the Bristol Channel.