Admiral Sir Ben Key has taken over as the nation’s most senior sailor following a ceremony aboard Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.
He is now in command of more than 30,000 men and women, 90 warships, nuclear submarines and support vessels – as well as the helicopters and jets of the Fleet Air Arm and the navy’s elite Royal Marine commando force.
Adm Key, who was previously the chief of joint operations and former fleet commander, has taken over the role of First Sea Lord from Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, who after 29 months at the helm has now been promoted to chief of defence staff – Britain’s most senior military position.
During his command, Adm Key will see the lead ships of two new classes of frigate – submarine hunter HMS Glasgow, the first of eight Type 26 warships and general purpose HMS Venturer, the maiden Inspiration-class/Type 31 vessel – enter the water.
The historic setting of HMS Victory’s great cabin was the venue for the transfer of office. Proceedings then shifted to Victory’s quarterdeck and the last act of the ceremony, where Admiral Radakin’s standard was lowered and Admiral Key’s flag raised in its place.
Adm Radakin, who takes up his new role at the end of the month, said: ‘It’s been a real privilege to have led the Royal Navy. I am so grateful to all the amazing women and men who serve and support us and what we have achieved together despite the pandemic. Good luck and very best wishes to Admiral Ben Key for his success leading the service.’
Adm Key’s service has seen him qualify as both helicopter crew and as a principal warfare officer, command four ships, including aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, serve as flag officer sea training, fleet commander, and most recently as chief of joint operations, where he helped mastermind the evacuation of British troops and civilians from Kabul, in Afghanistan.