Not quite a Jag – naval chief leaves job on army truck

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United States Navy, Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer 'USS Farragut' arriving in Portsmouth Harbour at lunchtime on Monday. 'Picture: Tony Weaver

American guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut steams into Portsmouth

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WHEN Commodore Rob Thompson was told he would make a grand exit from his job as head of Portsmouth Naval Base, glamorous thoughts of a Jaguar or even a Rolls-Royce must have come to mind.

But little did he know cheeky officers had laid on a six-tonne army truck to whisk him away.

Colleagues stifled sniggers as the commodore emerged from Naval Base Headquarters to greet the green beast yesterday morning. ‘What am I supposed to do?’ he asked, adding: ‘It’s not a Jaguar!’

Cdre Thompson is stepping down as Portsmouth Naval Base commander after three years in the role, during which time he has fought for the base’s survival and helped secure its future as the home of the navy’s new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers.

Addressing colleagues, he said: ‘Thank you very much for all the fun I’ve had over the last three years.

‘I have fond memories and some over-generous gifts.’

He added: ‘Thank you very much for this charade,’ before clambering to the top of the truck from Marchwood military port, which was also under his command.

The 53-year-old is moving to Edinburgh for a secondment to a civilian finance firm.

He said: ‘I am delighted to say that in my short period as custodian of the naval base, the job has been as interesting, varied and indeed challenging as I had expected.

‘I have many fond memories of my time at the base and the support I’ve had from the military and civilian workforce has been tremendous.’

Dozens of naval staff waved Cdre Thompson off.

Paying tribute, Captain Iain Greenlees said: ‘He has committed every minute of the last three years to the life and future of the base. He will be fondly remembered for his ability to get out and talk to people at every level.

‘It’s a good send-off.’

Jesse Denwood, of the naval base’s estate team, said: ‘He’s taken an active interest in everything that goes on.

‘He often goes around the naval base and wants to see if everything is ticking over.’

He added: ‘To see him that high up, he’s probably checking the gutters.’

The navy has announced Cdre Thompson’s successor will be 45-year-old Cdre Tony Radakin whose last post was as commander of the maritime task force in Iraq.