Admiral Alan West

Alan West, Baron West of Spithead

Admiral Alan William John West, Baron West of Spithead GCB, DSC (born 21 April 1948) is a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the British Home Office, with responsibility for Security, a Security Advisor to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Prior to his junior ministerial appointment, he was First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy, from 2002 to 2006. He is well remembered as the commanding officer of HMS Ardent, which was sunk on 21 May 1982 during the Falklands War. West was the last to leave the sinking ship and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his leadership. He is the current Chancellor of Southampton Solent University. On 29 June 2007 he was appointed to his current position at the Home Office in the Government of Gordon Brown, and that same day Brown announced that West was to be created a life peer. On 9 July 2007 he was created Baron West of Spithead, of Seaview in the County of Isle of Wight, and took his seat in the House of Lords.

Early career in the Royal Navy

Alan William John West was born on 21 April 1948 in Lambeth, London, and was educated at Windsor Grammar School and Clydebank High School He joined Britannia Royal Naval College in 1965 and since served on 14 different ships, commanding three of them. In 1980 he was promoted to Commander and took command of the frigate HMS Ardent, which was sunk on 21 May 1982 during the Falklands War. West was the last to leave the sinking ship and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership. He is the President of the HMS Ardent Association.

In 1986, classified documents about naval cuts West had taken home with him were dropped while he was walking a dog; they were found by a freelance journalist, leading to a Mail on Sunday article outlining the Navy's concern about the possible cuts. According to Private Eye magazine West, who had the rank of Captain at the time, was charged by the Navy with "wrongfully removing secret document, not taking proper care of them and failing to inform the ministry immediately of their disappearance." West received a "severe reprimand," according to the magazine, but this was deleted from his record after five years.

West was made Rear Admiral in February 1994. In February 1996 he became Commander United Kingdom Task Group. In October 1997 he was promoted to Vice Admiral and Chief of Defence Intelligence. West was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 2000. He became a full Admiral in November 2000 when he took up the post of Commander-in-Chief Fleet, NATO Commander-in-Chief East Atlantic and NATO Commander Allied Naval Forces North.

First Sea Lord

West was appointed as First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in September 2002. Admiral West was also a member of the Defence Council and Admiralty Board as well as First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty The Queen.

In 2004 he appeared on BBC Radio 4 and spoke about Trafalgar 200. Trafalgar 200 was a celebration for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. It saw an International Fleet in the Solent led by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and by the First Sea Lord. West led the demand by the Royal Navy for a major ceremony. He is credited with persuading the government for making the event include a large scale fleet review. In 2005 he served as the chief mourner at a renactment of Horatio Nelson's funeral.

In the 2004 New Year Honours list he was promoted to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB). West completed his term as First Sea Lord on 6 February 2006 and was succeeded by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band.

Post-naval career

West was installed as the first Chancellor for Southampton Solent University, formerly Southampton Institute on Wednesday, 28 June 2006. In 2006 West was appointed to the board of the Imperial War Museum. In October 2006 West was appointed to chair the advisory board of defence contractor QinetiQ.

Political life

In 2007 West was appointed security minister in Gordon Brown's government. In November of that year he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he was not "totally convinced" of the need for 42-day detention (without trial) of terrorist suspects. But less than two hours later, following a meeting with the Prime Minister, he said he was "convinced" of the need for the new legislation. He later claimed: "Being a simple sailor not a politician maybe I didn't choose my words well...Maybe my choice of words wasn't very clever". The incident was an embarrassment for the government, particularly as West was the minister charged with navigating the controversial legislation through the House of Lords.

Styles & Honours

  • Mr Alan West (1948-1980)
  • Commander Alan West (1980-1982)
  • Commander Alan West DSC (1982-1986)
  • Captain Alan West DSC (1986-1994)
  • Rear Admiral Alan West DSC (1994-1997)
  • Vice Admiral Alan West DSC (1997-2000)
  • Vice Admiral Sir Alan West KCB DSC (2000-2000)
  • Admiral Sir Alan West KCB DSC (2000-2004)
  • Admiral Sir Alan West GCB DSC (2004-2007)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC (2007-)


External links

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