The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier has sailed into its home port of Portsmouth after its commanding officer was removed from post for using an official car for personal journeys.
Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest is understood to have been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth but then removed as it set sail from Rosyth, Scotland, earlier this week.
The navy had already announced that Cdre Cooke-Priest, who takes the rank of captain for being in charge of the carrier, was being reassigned.
A Royal Navy spokesman said on Wednesday: “In light of the ongoing investigation, as a precautionary measure to protect both the individual and the ship’s company, the Royal Navy has decided that Captain Nick Cooke-Priest will not be at sea in HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
Cdre Cooke-Priest, who joined the Royal Navy in 1990, had only been in command of the 280-metre vessel, described by the Royal Navy as an “awe-inspiring warship” capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft, since last October.
He has been accused of using the navy’s Ford Galaxy car for personal journeys in breach of the service’s rules.
The decision to remove him from the role has been criticised by former senior officers including a retired commanding officer of an aircraft carrier who said: “I know of him and he is seen as a fine chap, it seems somewhat harsh and smacks of political correctness.”
Admiral Alan West, former first sea lord and security adviser to Gordon Brown, said: “Nick Cooke-Priest is a very good officer and highly competent and nice officer and I would be surprised he has done anything dishonest but I don’t know the details of it so I cannot comment further.”
Crowds lined the sea walls of Portsmouth to wave home the 65,000-tonne warship as it returned to the Hampshire city’s naval base.
Work carried out during the six-week maintenance period included replacing 284 hull valves, removing and cleaning both rudder blades and applying a fresh coat of anti-foul paint to the ship’s bottom.
Successful completion of the work means HMS Queen Elizabeth should not need to dock down again for another six years, the navy said.
The carrier will go on to conduct a period of sea trials and training before a planned deployment to the east coast of the United States later in the year.