The first female captain of a British Navy warship has been stripped of her command after allegations surfaced of an affair with a fellow officer, the Telegraph reported.
Commander Sarah West, 41, ceased to be captain of HMS Portland, a frigate with the Royal Navy, following reports that West was in a relationship with a married officer who was her third-in-command aboard the vessel.
“We can confirm that Commander Sarah West, Commanding Officer of HMS PORTLAND, has been removed from Command. 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,” a Royal Navy spokesperson reportedly said, in a statement.
West, who was made captain of the frigate in May 2012, was put on leave by naval officials while they conducted an inquiry on whether she had broken the navy's rules pertaining to relationships with other servicemen.
In 2012, when she was made captain, she had reportedly said, "I am very proud to be taking command of a Type 23 frigate, which is an extremely flexible warship, and I'm looking forward to taking HMS Portland on operations with a professional and focused team," adding that it was “"the highlight of my 16 years in the Navy.”
Later, during an interview with a newspaper, she spoke of the difficulty navy personnel face in maintaining relationships with their loved ones on land as they spend long periods of time at sea.
“I'm really proud to be the first woman but I'm not reinventing the wheel,” she had said, adding: “Lots of women in the services have challenging roles. It's just that I happen to be newsworthy at the moment. There are drawbacks though. Years at sea probably explains why I'm single. But every person in the military makes sacrifices. There are plenty of men and women on board missing their children growing up, which is why keeping the ship happy is such a big part of my job.”
The military allows relationships between servicemen and women as long as it does not undermine “trust and cohesion” or affect “operational effectiveness,” the Telegraph reported, adding that punishments for indulging in such relationships include a formal warning and reassignment, while a serious breach of conduct can result in dismissal.
Currently, HMS Portland is in the process of completing a seven-month deployment across Europe, Africa and the Americas. West and her 185 crew members are currently making their way from the Caribbean to Plymouth, and they are expected to arrive in a few days.