Royal Navy admiral who masterminded the evacuation from Afghanistan is named First Sea Lord

A ROYAL Navy officer who helped mastermind the operation to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan has been named as the new First Sea Lord.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 5:08 pm

Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key has been appointed as Britain’s next top sailor in a move approved by the Queen and confirmed by confirmed defence secretary Ben Wallace.

The father-of-three is now in full command of the Senior Service, taking over from former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, who was appointed head of Britain’s military last week.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said he was ‘delighted’ to appoint Vice Admiral Key as the next First Sea Lord. He added: ‘Sir Ben Key is an exceptional military officer and I have no doubt he will be outstanding in his new post.

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Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, pictured in Brunei, has been named as the new First Sea Lord. Photo: PO(Phot) Si Ethell

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‘As the current chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben was one of the key architects of the incredible Op Pitting rescue mission, which weeks ago saw the successful evacuation of over 15,000 British nationals and Afghans from Kabul.

‘Every day the threats to the UK and our allies multiply, that’s why this government has made the biggest investment in the armed forces since the Cold War, so that we can modernise to meet that threat head on.

‘Under Vice Admiral Key’s leadership, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, are in excellent hands.’

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said he was ‘extremely pleased’ Vice Admiral Key had been named as the next First Sea Lord.

He added: ‘As a previous fleet commander and the current chief of joint operations, he will bring a wealth of operational experience to the role. He will continue the modernisation of the Royal Navy to help ensure we can meet future threats and deliver for the nation.’

Speaking of his new role, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, said: ‘It is an honour and privilege to be selected as the next First Sea Lord. I am excited at the prospect of leading the exceptional sailors and marines of the Royal Navy through the exciting challenges we have ahead.’

Vice Admiral Key joined the Senior Service in 1984 as a university cadet.

Initially qualifying as both helicopter aircrew and as a principal warfare officer, he has seen service around the globe.

He has commanded four ships: the mine hunter HMS Sandown, the frigates HMS Iron Duke and HMS Lancaster and the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.

Promoted to Vice Admiral in February 2016, he was the Royal Navy’s fleet commander from then until March 2019.

He was awarded the US Bronze Star in 2006 for his service in Baghdad, appointed CBE in 2016 and KCB in 2021.

He is married to his wife Elly and has three children.

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