1st woman to command Royal Navy battleship

Aug. 8, 2011 at 11:16 PM

LONDON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- An officer on track to be the first female commander in the British Navy is also on track to be the first woman to command a warship, officials said Monday.

The Admiralty announced Lt. Commander Sarah West is to take command of the frigate HMS Portland in April 2012, The Guardian reported. She is scheduled to be promoted to commander at the end of the year.

West, who studied mathematics at the University of Hertfordshire and also has a law degree, joined the Royal Navy in 1995, five years after its ranks were open to women. She has commanded smaller vessels, participated in the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon in 2006 and has been involved in naval planning in Iraq.

As commander of the Portland, West will be responsible for a crew of 185 and a vessel with more firepower than the entire fleet Admiral Horatio Nelson took into action at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Women remain barred from a few naval positions, including the Royal Marine Commandos and submarine crews. About 15 percent to 20 percent of most ship's crews are now women.

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