UK: Longest Serving Female in History of Royal Navy Officially Retired

Longest Serving Female in History of Royal Navy Officially Retired

The longest serving female in the history of the Royal Navy has officially retired from active service following a 34 year career. Warrant Officer First Class Susan Morgan MBE joined the Wrens in 1978, serving on five overseas postings and three ships as a Royal Navy Police Officer.

Now retiring at 52, Susan’s last appointment was Lead Mediator and Investigator for Equality and Inclusion issues at the Royal Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth.

This was pioneering work for the branch and it saw her awarded the MBE in 2010.

Susan was born in London, educated in East Malling in Kent, and then moved to Manchester where she attended Shevington High School and the Deanery.

She joined the Royal Navy at the earliest opportunity – at age 17 years and three quarters – the idea then being that recruits had to be 18-years-old upon completing their basic training.

“I have had the most incredible career working with inspiring and amazing people,” she said.

“With a vocation of joining the Police, establishing a career which included travelling the world was a dream come true.

“Naturally in some aspects I will be sad to leave, however I have been preparing for life outside for the last two years, receiving advice and bespoke resettlement courses, so I’m now looking forward to new challenges and the next chapter of running my own business.”

Susan’s first posting came within a year after basic training in 1979, when she was posted to work with 40 Commando Royal Marines at Shackleton Barracks, Limavady , Northern Ireland.

Her task was to work in the Officers Mess delivering admin support which then allowed an extra patrol of Marines to work outside the wire.

Despite the troubled times, she says the Marines were always professional but still found time back on camp to show their wicked sense of humour by playing pranks on each other and the female staff.

During the Falklands Conflict in 1982, Susan was stationed at Royal Naval Air Station Portland, where she vividly remembers the reality of war.

“Personnel were being recalled from leave, no exceptions,” she recalled.

“I remember sending two men to Brize Norton air base to check 500 life jackets before being sent to the Falklands.

“This sense of urgency meant they travelled up in a staff car, no expense spared.

“I also remember the Master-at-Arms calling us into his office to say he had received a flash signal that HMS Sheffield had been sunk and personnel killed.

“We then had to check our systems to see if any of their next of kin were in the area, so that they could be told as soon as possible.

“It was such a shock, it brought everyone together with a common purpose to support each other in anyway we could.”

Postings to Diego Garcia, Naples and Gibraltar as well as deployments on HMS Invincible. Endurance and Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus followed – all of these were groundbreaking deployments for women.

“Diego Garcia is a beautiful place to work where the role of Navy police officers is to ensure British Indian Ocean Territory (B.I.O.T) law is enforced,” she said.

“While I was there, the authority we had over US Forces and employed nationals meant we were involved in an attempted murder, poaching, illegal fishing and the sad case of a stillborn baby – all serious case outside our normal remit.”

As the first Master-at-Arms to serve in Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) in Plymouth, Susan was a Sea Rider working on British and foreign ships who came to the establishment for training.

Her specialisation in dealing with conduct after the capture of prisoners of war at sea meant that this small contribution, within a specialist organisation, prepared ships for possible deployment to areas of conflict.

When Susan joined the naval service it was a year after the Naval Discipline Act came into force in 1977. This Act ensured equality for the two sexes in dealing with matters of law, both naval and criminal.

However, it wasn’t until 1990 when women were offered the right to serve at sea that Susan felt a shift change by male colleagues – they had a respect for women who regularly served at sea, particularly as there were plenty of men who tried to avoid it.

“I was always being told you have not done the job until you have served at sea,” added Susan.

“Being addressed as Master helped with integration of working on my first ship HMS Invincible where we conducted two back-to-back seven-month deployments in the Adriatic.

“Nothing really prepares you life at sea though – the confinement, the banter and the loss of private life.”

Working on HMS Endurance Susan had the additional role of Flight Deck Officer. Deploying to Antarctica the spectacular sights of icebergs and wildlife were breathtaking.

“It felt a real privilege to visit somewhere so remote,” she said.

“During the two deployments, with one taking me away from my family for over eight-and-a-half months, the ship visited Argentina, the Falkland Islands, Cape Town, Montevideo, Rio, Peru, to name a few.

“Also a place called Bird Island where only British Scientists can work. I was able to take part in a seal study, pick up seal pups and tag them.”

Susan’s final posting, in which she served more than five years, required her to use her investigative skills in dealing with allegations of bullying and harassment. In 2007 she became an accredited mediator, specialising in resolving workplace disputes.

Although senior officers were initially sceptical of this alternative method, the high success rate, the savings on time and cost, meant the Commanding Officers could ensure the restoration of operational capability within one to two days.

This avoided lengthy investigations, and reducing any additional stress on individuals already serving in a sometimes highly pressurised environment.

For this work, Susan received Commendation from the Second Sea Lord and the prestigious award of an MBE from Prince Charles.

These highly transferable skills have enabled her to set up her own business Morgan Mediation where she will mediate in workplace disputes nationally and internationally – while also remaining a consultant to military services.

Naval Today Staff,October 30, 2012; Image: Royal Navy