BRITANNIA Royal Naval College has a new commanding officer at the helm. Captain Sarah Oakley took over from Captain Roger Readwin in a handover ceremony on May 4.
The new commanding officer joins BRNC almost 27 years after attending the college as a cadet. Sarah joined the Royal Navy in 1995 after completing a history degree at Oxford. She gained her bridge watch-keeping experience on HMS Alderney before progressing to signal communications officer on HMS Kent and navigating officer on HMS Norfolk. After completing further warfare training Sarah joined HMS Chatham as principal warfare officer, and then operations officer during the ship’s deployment in 2008 to protect the Iraqi oil platforms in the Northern Gulf.
A navy spokesperson said: “Operational tours on the staffs of the commander of the Iraqi Maritime Task Force and commander of the Combined Task Force responsible for counter terrorism and counter narcotics were interspersed with a brief period on the Maritime Battle Staff before Sarah was selected to command offshore patrol vessels, HMS Mersey and then HMS Clyde, operating from the Falkland Islands. Sarah has also commanded the Fishery Protection Squadron.
“Her shore time has been spent teaching at Britannia Royal Naval College, as a trials officer in Portsmouth, and in the Ministry of Defence, firstly as part of the finance and military capability team during the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and more recently as the naval assistant to the First Sea Lord and a member of the Naval Staff Strategy team supporting the Integrated Review in 2020.”
Sarah was promoted to captain in September 2020 and joined the Develop Directorate as the head of force development. She is also vice chair of the Royal Navy Rugby Union.
At last week’s handover ceremony, she said: “There’s no greater honour for me than to be returning as the captain of the place where my naval career began. I look forward to playing my role in instilling the values and ethos of the Royal Navy into the next generation of naval officers. I will strive to balance upholding the best of our traditions whilst embracing innovation and diverse thinking. I know I will be supported by a superb whole force team who are committed to delivering first class training to our Royal Navy and international cadets. I’m sure I will enjoy being part of the local Dartmouth community.”
Captain Readwin has been in charge of the college since September 2019. As he handed over the role to Sarah he said: “It’s been an absolute honour to have been the captain of Britannia Royal Naval College. Throughout my tenure in command, I could not have wished for a more engaging and professional whole force, whose unrelenting hard work, dedication, and sense of humour, has commendably sustained training output despite the clear challenges of the global pandemic. I thank them all. To all our friends in the town of Dartmouth and the surrounding South Hams. I would like to also add a personal thank you too, for their immense support to BRNC over the last few years.”
He said there have been many highlights during his time at BRNC, including Lord High Admiral Divisions with Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and His Royal Highness Prince of Wales; the historic occasion of sailors passing out alongside officers; hosting of national mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh; and the Prime Minister attending the April passing out parade.
He added: “However, the highlight which consistently trumps all, is the privilege to witness the final slow march on pass out of our newest officers. I truly believe that with BRNC’s unrivalled proud maritime heritage, alongside high calibre divisional training teams, this sets the uncompromising tone, vital for our fighting ethos into the future. I would like to wish my relief, Captain Sarah Oakley, all the very best for her time in Command of BRNC.”
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