The Times: The commanding officer of the frigate involved in the Iranian hostage drama, when 15 sailors and Marines were captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has been removed from his post.
Michael Evans, Defence Editor
The commanding officer of the frigate involved in the Iranian hostage drama, when 15 sailors and Marines were captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has been removed from his post.
Commander Jeremy Woods, former captain of HMS Cornwall, a Type 22 frigate, was not singled out for criticism in the official investigation into the affair. However, a parliamentary inquiry described the hostage-taking as a “national embarrassment” and there was public outrage after two of the captured sailors were allowed to sell their stories to the media.
The Royal Navy insists that the removal of Commander Woods from command is unrelated to the incident in the Gulf in March last year.
However, senior Royal Navy officers decided that, after about 17 months as commanding officer of the frigate, he was not of sufficient calibre to continue in the job.
Commander Woods is not expected to be given another warship to command and will be assigned to an on-shore appointment, “where his talents and experience can be used to best effect”, the Royal Navy said.
He will keep his rank but his prospects for future promotion will be affected.
Commander Woods took command of HMS Cornwall in November 2006, having commanded HMS Bangor, a minehunter. He has been in the Navy for 23 years and served in the Gulf War in 1991 and in Nato operations in Bosnia.
The 15 personnel from HMS Cornwall had been boarding a cargo vessel in the international waterway when they were surrounded by Iranian gunboats and then detained for 13 days. Tehran claimed that the British party had entered Iranian waters, which the Ministry of Defence denied.
The warship returned from her Gulf deployment in late summer last year and recently, after a period of recuperation and retraining, the crew was preparing for another mission.
Commander Woods has been replaced by Commander Gordon Abernethy, who has already commanded HMS Campbeltown, another Type 22 frigate.
Commander Woods’s removal from HMS Cornwall was described by the Royal Navy as an “internal administrative matter”. It did not involve “any disciplinary issues”, the Navy said.
About two thirds of the crew have moved into other roles since the incident last March. However, Able Seaman Arthur Batchelor, who sold his story and described how the Iranians confiscated his iPod, is still serving in HMS Cornwall.
Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the other hostage who was authorised to talk to the media, has moved into a shore-based job.
An inquiry into the capture of the eight sailors and seven Marines, carried out by Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fulton, a former Commandant-General of the Royal Marines, said that there had been “serious shortcomings” in military judgment.
General Fulton said officers had failed to assess all the risks of operating in the complex environment of the Gulf and recommended “specialist rather than composite” teams be selected for boarding parties. He said that there was no case for disciplinary action against any individuals. The hostage drama was the second incident of its kind in three years.
In June 2004 six Marines and two sailors were captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and held hostage for three days.
The incident in March 2007 received more adverse publicity, however, because of the decision to allow two of the hostages to sell their stories.