Royal Navy admiral blasts ‘bonkers’ museum’s move to make ships ‘gender neutral’ by removing ‘she’ or ‘her’ from names

THE Royal Navy has refused to change how it names its warships after campaigners demanded vessels became ‘gender neutral’, with top brass branding the move ‘bonkers

Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, was appalled by the move
Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, was appalled by the move

It comes after a museum in Scotland took the decision to drop the traditional ‘she’ or ‘her’ terms for ships, instead referring to them as ‘it’ in a bid to appear more gender neutral.

The Scottish Maritime Museum, near Troon, took the unusual move after it was targeted by vandals.

Twice in four months, references to boats as ‘she’ have been scratched out of information signs, prompting the museum’s leadership to scrap the gender-specific term altogether, the Telegraph has reported.

Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, was appalled by the move

But the decision infuriated a former head of the Royal Navy, who said the situation was beyond belief.

Admiral Lord Alan West, a retired First Sea Lord,  told The News: ‘This is totally bonkers. It’s political correctness gone mad.’

He later spoke on BBC Radio 4 as a listener after becoming so incensed with at the news.

The retired Admiral added: ‘It’s a sort of insult to generations of sailors, the ships are seen almost as a mother to preserve us from the dangers of the sea and also from the violence of the enemy. To change it in this trite fashion is just absolutely stupid.

Britain's biggest 'she' HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails to Scotland for a period of maintenance. Photo: Royal Navy

‘We’ve done it for centuries as that’s how we refer to them, we have to be very careful with little tiny pressure groups that make people change things. It’s a very dangerous road we are going down.’

Last week vandals defaced the sign of a 19th century steam yacht called Rifle, a private steamer which once carried Queen Victoria across Loch Arkaig while she was visiting Inverlochy castle in 1873.

A passage in the museum’s exhibition read: ‘Although she is in a very fragile condition, her propeller is a well preserved example of an early design and she continues to fascinate viewers,’ –  but it had all the gendered terms scratched out.

David Mann, museum director has now vowed to update all signage around the building with gender neutral terms, using ‘it’ instead.

‘We are moving in line with other maritime institutions,’ said Mr Mann, who reported the incident to the police.

‘The debate around gender and ships is wide ranging, pitting tradition against the modern world. But I think that we have to move with the times and understand the way people look at things today.’

The Royal Navy has since fired back and said it would never change its traditional way of naming its vessels.

A spokesman said: ‘The Royal Navy has a long tradition of referring to its ships as ‘she’ and will continue to do so.’

Ships have long been referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’.

There are several theories on how this tradition came to be.

Some suggest it is all to do with language and the root of words, with experts claiming that it's because the Latin word for ship, ‘navis’ is feminine.

However, for many historians, this theory doesn’t hold water.

A more likely suggest comes from the notion that goddess and mother figures play a protective role in looking after a ship and crew – with the ships providing this protection from the elements for sailors.