Royal Navy training base welcomes first female commanding officer

HMS Raleigh, Royal Navy’s largest training base in the South West, welcomed its first woman commanding officer.

A guard of honour made up of trainee sailors has welcomed Captain (Capt) Ellie Ablett as she relieved Capt Rob Bellfield as commander of HMS Raleigh.

Capt Ablett joined the Royal Navy in 1993, in the first wave of women to join a fully integrated service on the closure of the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

She comes to HMS Raleigh direct from an appointment in Whitehall as the executive assistant to the First Sea Lord.

Capt Ablett said: “I am humbled and delighted to have been selected to take Command of HMS Raleigh.

“Leading the team who are responsible for shaping the key ingredient for our Service’s future success – its people – is a real privilege.

“And to do that as the Royal Navy begins to grow for the first time in fifty years is particularly exciting.”

During her career she has served on six Royal Navy warships. Her last appointment at sea was as Commander Logistics on board HMS Bulwark, which included a deployment East of Suez and high profile events to mark the 350th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Marines and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Capt Ablett has also served ashore in a variety of roles from providing executive support to Flag and Commanding Officers to policy roles in Navy Command and the Ministry of Defence.

Other highlights of Capt Ablett’s career include an operational tour of Iraq in support of a three-star General and UK personnel serving in Baghdad.

She was also responsible for international partnerships and planning for the UK contribution to operations in Afghanistan, working at the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Northwood.

In 2017 the Naval Service will celebrate the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS).

It will also recognise the supporting role given by the WRNS to the Naval Service and acknowledge the transition made by women from the separate WRNS into the Royal Navy, demonstrating the way that the WRNS helped define the opportunities for women in today’s Service.