Warship captain ordered home after bullying complaint

The captain of a Royal Navy warship has been relieved of his command and ordered to return to the UK after a complaint from a junior officer serving under him.

The captain of a Royal Navy warship has been relieved of his command and ordered to return to the UK after a complaint from a junior officer serving under him.

Commander David Axon was ordered off HMS Somerset, a Type 23 frigate, while the vessel was in port in Gibraltar, on the way back to Britain from a tour of duty in the Gulf.

In a highly unusual move, he was recalled to the UK following an "equal opportunities investigation", which was instigated as a result of a complaint from a junior officer.

According to a report in today's Sun newspaper, Cmdr Axon has been ordered off the ship amid allegations of bullying and intimidation.

He has been replaced as captain of the ship by the Executive Officer, who is now bringing the frigate back to the Royal Navy base at Devonport in Plymouth.

Cmdr Axon, who is thought to be in his 40s, has been ordered back to the UK to assist with the internal investigation into the matter, in which he will be given the opportunity to give his side of the story.

The allegation is thought to be that his behaviour fell below the standards required of a commanding officer.

It is not thought to involve any allegations of physical, sexual or racist abuse.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said last night: "The Royal Navy is an equal opportunities employer and is proud of its record in this field.

"The service takes all such matters very seriously and acts swiftly to resolve issues of this nature when they are reported.

"I can confirm that, as a result of an equal opportunities investigation, instigated following a complaint from a junior officer, the Commanding Officer of HMS Somerset, has been recalled to the UK.

"At this point, no decision on the CO's future has been taken.

"He has been invited to comment on the findings so far. It is not however, considered appropriate that he remain on the ship at present and he has delegated temporary command to his Executive Officer, who will bring the ship back to the UK."

Cmdr Axon, a specialist in anti-air warfare, assumed command of HMS Somerset in December 2003. He lives in Southsea with his partner Gail, a naval barrister.

HMS Somerset is on the final leg of her journey home and is expected to arrive in Devonport this week after more than six months in the North Arabian Gulf.

The ship's primary task had been the protection of Iraq's two offshore oil terminals from terrorist attacks.

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