Royal Navy's first female Commander removed from post amid affair claims

Commander Sarah West was put in charge of HMS Portland in 2012

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The Independent Online

The first female commander of a Royal Navy warship has been removed from her post amid claims she had an affair with a subordinate officer.

Commander Sarah West had been “removed from command” but will remain in service and be appointed to another position, a spokesman said.

The 42-year-old hit headlines in May 2012 when she was put in charge of HMS Portland – a move celebrated as a major advancement in equality for the Navy.

But she left her ship in July after allegations emerged of an affair with her married third-in-command, Lt Cdr Richard Gray.

The Royal Navy said at the time it would conduct an inquiry into both officers over whether they breached the Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct, which governs personal relationships in the military and bans relationships with subordinates.

"We can confirm that Commander Sarah West, Commanding Officer of HMS Portland, has been removed from command," a spokesman said.

"This is an internal matter between the individual and her senior officers and we will not give further details of the removal.

"Commander West will continue to serve in the Royal Navy and she will be reappointed to a post where her skills and experience can be used to best effect."

Her second-in-command has taken over the running of the ship.

HMS Portland, a type 23 frigate, returned to the UK on 1 August after a seven-month deployment to West Africa, the Falkland Islands and the Caribbean.

The warship has undertaken maritime security operations including counter narcotics and anti-piracy patrols in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Commander West described her appointment to command the vessel two years ago as the greatest achievement of her career.

"I'm really proud to be the first woman but I'm not reinventing the wheel. Lots of women in the services have challenging roles. It's just that I happen to be newsworthy at the moment," she told the Daily Mirror.

"There are drawbacks though. Years at sea probably explains why I'm single. But every person in the military makes sacrifices."

Commander West, originally from Lincolnshire, studied maths at the University of Hertfordshire before joining the Britannia Royal Naval College in September 1995.

Additional reporting by PA