The Welly Trail ‘Dido’


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Harold John ‘Dido’  Bradford

Coxswain 1951 – 1957

Coxswain of two Lifeboats:

Catherine Harriet Eaton 

Maria Noble

Joined the crew in 1925



Ferryman, between Exmouth and Exmouth Warren

Fisherman.  Joint owner of “Florence”, a 32’ yawl with net, trawl and line.  Built in Exmouth in 1936.

Trinity House Pilot with Exeter Port Authority

In October 1953, a new lifeboat ‘Maria Noble’, which cost £14,594 to build, arrived in Exmouth. So far, Exmouth Lifeboats have saved 57 lives.

At this time, when the Lifeboat was needed, crew were alerted by maroons being fired by the Devon Fire Service.  The maroon launcher is currently part of the RNLI 200 display in Exmouth Museum.  See for details of opening times.

A prestigious RNLI Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Bradford in 1954 for the rescue of a crew of 5 from the cabin cruiser “Nicky”.  The rescue from Mear Rocks, was carried out with courage and determination under difficult conditions, steering between rocks in darkness in shallow breaking water with heavy squalls.  A dozen or so cars gathered with their headlights on, illuminating the scene, but turned them off when they realised they were dazzling the Lifeboat crew.  30 minutes after the rescue, the ‘Nicky’ sank.  

As the most recent recipient of an RNLI Gallantry Award, Dido Bradford had the honour of opening the National Boat Show at Olympia on 30 December,1954.  The RNLI was given free space to exhibit by the Ship and Boatbuilders Federation.

All Lifeboats are on duty 24 hours a day, every day.  

On Christmas Day, 1956, red flares were seen off Orcombe Point. The crew and launchers left their families, launching at 5.20pm. The sea was exceptionally rough, and as 20 foot high waves swept over the Lifeboat, Will Carder and Jack Phillips were washed overboard.  As it would have been impossible to turn back to search for them in such rough seas, Coxswain Bradford continued to the ship in difficulty. The radio aerial had been damaged in the storm, but once repaired, launchers on shore were alerted that crew were missing and formed search parties. Jack Phillips managed to get ashore, and was  taken to hospital.  Tragically, when Will Carder was found, he could not be revived.  

Will Carder was the Landlord of “The Volunteer”. As a tribute, Whitbreads had a new pub sign painted with a lifeboat on one side, and Will’s portrait on the other. The pub was demolished to make way for the Magnolia Shopping Centre, and the sign now hangs in the Exmouth RNLI boathouse.  If you take a free tour of Exmouth RNLI Station, you will see it. Visit for details of times. 

Following this, 3 experienced and respected members of crew, Dido Bradford, Jack Phillips and Cecil Hockings regretfully left the crew.  All three were Trinity House Pilots, asked (but not ordered) to resign because if the entire crew of the Exmouth Lifeboat had been lost, the Port of Exeter would have been left without any Pilots. 

All three men were presented with Long Service Certificates, totalling 60 years service to the RNLI. 

In 1972, when Dido, aged 68 retired as a Pilot, he was invited to unveil a new pub sign on The Pilot, where you are now standing.  

It was a complete surprise to him to find that he was unveiling his own portrait! 

There are more photos and articles on the walls inside The Pilot, you are very welcome to go in and see them. 

Look up, and you will see a portrait of Dido painted on the wall of the pub by our local street artist Garf.  A great supporter of Exmouth RNLI, Garf also painted the RNLI Mural on Haldon House Surgery, Manchester Road, the Wellies on this Trail, and the front cover of your map. To see more of his artwork, go to or


Write the letter A from BRADFORD in space 9 of your answer box.


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We have made every effort to ensure all the information about the Coxswains is accurate. However, we are always happy to be corrected or updated and, if you can add to our knowledge base, please email us at

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