A FORMER lieutenant commander has hit out at the Royal Navy’s ‘sad’ decision to sack the captain of its future flagship after he reportedly misused its official car.
Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest was relieved from his role on Portsmouth-based HMS Queen Elizabeth after an investigation allegedly found he had driven its Ford Galaxy at weekends.
Rules say the vehicle is for official use only, but sources believed to be close to Cdre Cooke-Priest, quoted in the Sun, claim he had never been told.
Mike Critchley, a former lieutenant commander and defence publisher from Gosport, branded the sacking ‘incredibly sad’.
‘The consequences seem way out of sync with the alleged offence,’ he said.
‘There have been incidents where senior officers have made a mistake and they have to be punished – it sets an example for junior people.
‘But based on what we know so far, I would have thought a slap over the wrist was more appropriate than losing command of the major warship.’
He added: ‘If I was [Cdre Cooke-Priest], I would be asking for the fullest inquiry ever, so people can make their own minds up because, let’s be clear about it, losing command of an aircraft carrier is career-ending.’
A spokesman for the Royal Navy confirmed Cdre Cooke-Priest was ‘reassigned to a new role’ and ‘management action is ongoing’.
Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord and security adviser to ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, said he ‘would be surprised’ if Cdre Cooke-Priest had done anything ‘dishonest’ and hailed him as a ‘very good officer’.
It is understood HMS Queen Elizabeth will now be led by Cdre Steve Moorhouse, who in January was appointed the captain of the £3.1bn vessel’s sister ship HMS Prince of Wales.
Cdre Cooke-Priest currently sits as the chairman of the UK Armed Forces Equestrian Association and is a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
It is not yet known whether these roles will be changed following his sacking.
‘Extreme’ decision but Cdre Cooke-Priest should ‘lead by example’
The Royal Navy’s decision to sack Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest as HMS Queen Elizabeth’s captain prompted a fiery debate among readers of The News.
Branding the move too harsh, Adam Cooper said: ‘Disgusting decision, he is a great boss and made a tiny mistake, a fair and firm man and was navy through and through.’
Meanwhile Alma Cogan added: ‘Crazy to sack him! He probably does a brilliant job!’
Others, however, said letting Cdre Cooke-Priest off would set a bad example for young officers.
Sarah Johnson said: ‘He'd been in the navy long enough to know the rules so yes good decision.’
While Kim Peskett added: ‘Extreme but if he expects staff to follow rules he should lead by example.’