In April 2012 Lieutenant Commander Sarah West will be promoted to Commander and will assume command of HMS Portland, a Type 23 frigate, the first woman to be given command of one of the Royal Navy’s major warships. West, 39, has already been Commanding Officer in a succession of Sandown Class mine hunters, namely HMS Ramsey, HMS Pembroke, HMS Penzance and HMS Shoreham.
Lt. Commander Sarah West. Photo credit: Royal Navy
The Royal Navy says she won the HMS Portland command on merit and in the face of tough competition as she showed “leadership, confidence, moral courage, sound judgement and exceptional people skills”.
West says she is “delighted and very proud to be taking command of HMS Portland. I start training for my new appointment in the New Year and I am very much looking forward to it.”
The Royal Navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990, five years before West joined up. She is one of approximately 3,300 women in the British Navy, of whom 620 are officers. This compares with almost 32,000 men, 5,990 of them officers.
She says that when she joined up she thought “the Royal Navy offered the best opportunities for women. I have never experienced the slightest hint of any attitude in the Navy that prefers men over women. Of course, not everyone who joins the Navy wanting to be a captain will end up one. Not everyone in newspapers gets to be an editor in Fleet Street. That’s the nature of the lives we live. But I have worked hard and I have enjoyed my career so far and I have fulfilled my ambitions to go to sea and to command warships.”