Top award for the Portsmouth’s first female naval base pilot

PRAISE Captain Rachel Dunn has been honoured for raising the profile of women at sea
PRAISE Captain Rachel Dunn has been honoured for raising the profile of women at sea
CATCH LINE: University of Portsmouth University House, in Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

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RAISING the status of women in the maritime industry has earned a naval base pilot a prestigious award.

Captain Rachel Dunn was awarded the Victoria Drummond award for boosting the profile of women at sea.

It is the highest honour given to a female member of the Nautilus union.

The 45-year-old is an admiralty pilot at Portsmouth Naval Base and is the first woman in the country to hold such a role.

Pilots work around the clock to help with the movement of navy warships through the harbour.

Rachel, of Elgar Close, Gosport, said: ‘It was a complete shock to find out I had been given the award.

‘My husband had nominated me without my knowing, and he is a pilot himself.

‘I feel very proud to have been awarded it.

‘I love my job and I get great job satisfaction.

‘Not every job gives you a billion-pound ship to move around.’

Rachel was given the award at a ceremony in Rotterdam last week.

It is named after Victoria Drummond, the first British female marine engineer.

During World War Two she was an engineer aboard the SS Bonita, which came under attack from a German bomber.

Victoria took charge of the engine room and saw the ship through the attack.

Rachel added: ‘It was difficult enough for me when I first went to sea so I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her.

‘She is an amazing woman with an amazing history.

‘Being a woman at sea, people don’t think you’re there to work.

‘You have to work extra hard to prove yourself.’

Rachel’s career at sea started in 1984 with oil company Shell.

She later worked for Wightlink ferries in Portsmouth and was the first female officer employed by the company.

After 16 years, she left to become an admiralty pilot.

Rachel said: ‘One of the highlights of the job for me was bringing in the American aircraft carrier USS George W Bush.

‘The size of it was daunting. When I worked at Shell I was on ships which were a quarter of a mile long – but because this one had all the aircraft on it was something quite special.’