Retired officer condemns sacking of HMS Queen Elizabeth captain over car issue

A retired senior officer has criticised the Royal Navy for sacking the captain of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth over misuse of an official car, saying it “smacks of political correctness”.

Nick Cooke-Priest is no longer in charge of HMS Queen Elizabeth because he is believed to have driven the aircraft carrier’s official car on weekends, according to The Sun.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: “We can confirm Captain Nick Cooke-Priest has been reassigned to a new role.

“We can only say that management action is ongoing and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment further.”

Nick Cooke-Priest
Nick Cooke-Priest

Commodore Cooke-Priest, who joined the Royal Navy in 1990, had only been in command of the 280-metre, 65,000-tonne vessel – described by the Royal Navy as an “awe-inspiring warship” capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft – since last October.

He was never warned that using the Ford Galaxy for personal journeys was in breach of rules, the paper reports.

A retired commanding officer of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier told the Press Association that without knowing the terms of the lease of the vehicle to Cdre Cooke-Priest, he felt the decision to remove him from his position was an over-reaction to a minor error.

He said: “On the face of it it seems quite harsh but it would depend on the terms on which it was leased. A number of people in government use cars for all sorts of purposes.

“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 so I cannot comment further.”

A former officer told The Sun: “Nick adores the Navy and has lost his career by doing what captains have done for decades – using the company car to get home. An innocent mistake has cost the Navy one of its best.”

It is believed that major Royal Navy warships and their captains are loaned a car for use on official duties.

Nick Cooke-Priest
Nick Cooke-Priest

An investigation found he had used the Ford as if it was his own, and found him guilty of an “error of judgment”, according to The Sun.

He paid for the petrol and there is no allegation of fraud.

He had specialised as a Lynx helicopter observer after joining the Royal Navy.

A decade of flying appointments followed, primarily at sea, and included an instructional tour and as Flight Commander of HMS Exeter.

He was promoted to Commander in 2009 and that year in HMS Kent escorted the Queen during a royal tour.

On HMS Iron Duke, he was deployed to the Arabian Gulf and in 2011 to Libya as part of Operation Ellamy.

Assuming command of HMS Bulwark, the Fleet Flag Ship, in January 2015 and leading the UK’s contribution to the Gallipoli centenary commemorations in the same year are other highlights of his successful career.

He is a married father of three sons and was awarded an OBE in 2016.