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Admiral The Right Honourable
The Lord West of Spithead
Baron West in September 2013
Minister for Security and Counter-Terrorism

In office
28 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Tony McNulty
Succeeded by The Baroness Neville-Jones
Chancellor of Southampton Solent University
Assumed office
28 June 2006
Deputy Van Gore
Personal details
Born 21 April 1948(1948-04-21) (age 74)
London, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Years of service 1965–2006
Rank Admiral
Commands HMS Ardent
Battles/wars Falklands War
Iraq War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Cross

Admiral Alan William John West, Baron West of Spithead, GCB DSC PC (born 21 April 1948) was, from June 2007 to May 2010, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the British Home Office with responsibility for security and a security advisor to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Prior to his ministerial appointment, he was First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff from 2002 to 2006. He is the current Chancellor of Southampton Solent University.

Early career in the Royal Navy

West was born on 21 April 1948 in Lambeth, London, and was educated at Windsor Grammar School (now known as The Windsor Boys' School) and Clydebank High School.[1] He joined Britannia Royal Naval College in 1965 and served in HMS Albion during her standby duty for the Biafran War and circumnavigated the globe in HMS Whitby, taking part in the Beira Patrol. He was confirmed as a sub-lieutenant on 1 September 1969[2] and promoted to lieutenant on 1 May 1970.[3] After his command of the Ton-class minesweeper HMS Yarnton in Hong Kong in 1973, he qualified as a principal warfare officer in 1975 and then served as operations officer in the frigate HMS Juno in 1976 and then the frigate HMS Ambuscade in 1977.[1] Promoted to lieutenant commander on 1 April 1978[4] he attended the Royal Navy Staff College that year and then qualified as an advanced warfare officer before being posted to the destroyer HMS Norfolk in 1979.[1]

In 1980 he was promoted to commander and took command of the frigate HMS Ardent[1] and deployed to the Indian Ocean taking part in the first Armilla Patrol. In 1982 he laid a wreath off Norway, on the spot inside the Arctic Circle where the previous Ardent had been sunk in 1940 by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Shortly after, the ship deployed to the South Atlantic for the Falklands War,[5] where she was sunk in Falkland Sound on 21 May during the successful retaking of the islands.[6] West was the last to leave the sinking ship and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership.[7] West led the victory parade through the City of London on return from the Falkland Islands. He remains the President of the HMS Ardent Association.[8] In 1986, while working on the Naval Staff at the Ministry of Defence, West left documents detailing large cuts to the Navy on a canal towpath. These documents were recovered and then published by a journalist from the Mail on Sunday. At a subsequent court martial West pleaded guilty to charges of negligence and breaching security.[9] He explained that they had fallen from his coat pocket whilst walking a friend's dog. West was issued with a severe reprimand, the second lightest sentence available. The severe reprimand that he received was time expired before he became eligible for promotion to flag rank.[10]

Senior Royal Navy career

The Former First Sea Lord in his capacity as Chancellor of Southampton Solent University with graduating British Merchant Navy officers in 2011.

Promoted to captain in 1987, he was given command of HMS Bristol[1] and the Dartmouth training squadron in March of that year and led the study into employment of women at sea before spending three years as head of naval intelligence[1] rewriting the NATO intelligence manual after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1992 he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies,[1] where he produced a Seaford House Paper on why the UK needed a ‘Grand Strategy’. He attended the Higher Command and Staff Course at the Staff College, Camberley in 1993 before being promoted to commodore and becoming Director of Naval Staff Duties at the Ministry of Defence later that year.[1]

West became rear admiral on appointment as Naval Secretary in March 1994,[11] responsible for officer appointing and also naval manning and moved its organisation from London to Portsmouth. In February 1996 he became Commander United Kingdom Task Group[1] deploying to the Gulf for the first UK fighter patrols over Iraq (conducted by Sea Harrier FA2) and to the South China Sea to cover the withdrawal from Hong Kong (Operation OceanWave).[12]

In October 1997 he was promoted to vice admiral and Chief of Defence Intelligence.[1] He was responsible for the move of the Intelligence school from Ashford to Chicksands, and provision of intelligence to the Chiefs of Staff on operations in Sierra Leone, East Timor, Operation Desert Fox in Iraq, and the Kosovo War. West was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 2000 New Year Honours.[13] 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.[1] West co-ordinated the naval response to the September 11 attacks in the North Arabian Sea and Afghanistan.[14]

First Sea Lord

Admiral Sir Alan West, then First Sea Lord, is pictured with the official chart of anchorages for the International Fleet Review

West was appointed as First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in September 2002.[1] Admiral West was also a member of the Defence Council and Admiralty Board as well as First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp to the Queen.[1] In his role he had overall responsibility for fighting effectiveness and morale of the Naval Service (Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and medical services) for the successful operations on the US right flank in the invasion of Iraq.

In 2004 he appeared on BBC Radio 4 and spoke about Trafalgar 200.[15] 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.[6] In 2005 he served as the chief mourner at a reenactment of Horatio Nelson's funeral.[16] In the 2004 New Year Honours he was advanced to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.[17] He completed his term as First Sea Lord on 6 February 2006 and was succeeded by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band.[18]

Post-naval career

West was installed as the first Chancellor for Southampton Solent University (formerly Southampton Institute) on 28 June 2006,[19] appointed to the board of the Imperial War Museum on 6 July 2006[20] and made chairman of the advisory board of defence contractor QinetiQ in October 2006.[21] In April 2010 West also became patron of the Docklands Sinfonia symphony orchestra.[22]

Political life

On 29 June 2007 West was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the British Home Office, with responsibility for security in the administration 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,[23] and took his seat in the House of Lords. During his time with the Home Office he produced the United Kingdom’s first ever National Security Strategy (as trailed in his Seaford House paper of 1992) and Cyber Security strategy as well as formulating a series of other new strategies: the counter-terrorist policy, cyber security, chemical, biological radiological and nuclear security, science and technology for countering international terrorism and guidance for local government in enhancing the security of crowded places.[19] In September 2011 he contributed to a book entitled What Next for Labour? Ideas for a new generation; in his piece he highlights his view that defence spending under Tony Blair was insufficient.[24]


In 1973 West married Rosemary Anne Linington Childs: they have two sons and one daughter.[1]

Awards and decorations

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png UK Distinguished Service Cross BAR.svg

South Atlantic Medal w rosette BAR.svg Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Ordine del Re Abd al-Aziz.png

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) 2004
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 2000
UK Distinguished Service Cross BAR.svg Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) 1983
South Atlantic Medal w rosette BAR.svg South Atlantic Medal with Rosette 1982
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal 2002
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012
Ordine del Re Abd al-Aziz.png Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud (First class) 2004[25]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Who's Who 2010, A & C Black, 2010, ISBN 978-1-408-11414-8
  2. "No. 44987". 12 December 1969. 
  3. "No. 45092". 1 May 1970. 
  4. "No. 47527". 8 May 1978. 
  5. "No. 49194". 13 December 1982. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West On Nelson And Trafalgar 2005". Culture 24. 21 December 2005. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  7. "No. 49134". 8 October 1982. 
  8. "Admiral the Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC". HMS Ardent Association. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  9. "Officer who lost plans made First Sea Lord". The Telegraph. 18 April 2002. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  10. "Admiral Lord West's change of tack". The Telegraph. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  11. "Senior Royal Navy Appointments". Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  12. "Naval deployment". UK Defence Forum. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  13. "No. 55710". 31 December 1999. 
  14. "Lord West". Home Office. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  15. "Sir Alan West". BBC Radio 4 - Midweek. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  16. "First Sea Lord is chief mourner at Nelson's funeral re-enactment on Friday 16 September". Government News. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  17. "No. 57155". 31 December 2003. 
  18. "Senior Royal Navy appointment". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Chancellor Lord West of Spithead". Southampton Solent University. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  20. "Sir Alan appointed to the Imperial War Museum". 6 July 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  21. Private Eye No.1188, 6–19 July 2007, p.9, "Tales of the Riverbank"
  22. "About us". Docklands Sinfonia. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  23. "No. 58391". 13 July 2007. 
  24. "Admiral Lord West: Defence". Tom Scholes-Fogg. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  25. "Today in History". 20 November 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Malcolm Rutherford
Naval Secretary
Succeeded by
Fabian Malbon
Preceded by
Sir John Foley
Chief of Defence Intelligence
Succeeded by
Sir Joe French
Preceded by
Sir Nigel Essenhigh
Commander-in-Chief Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir Jonathon Band
Preceded by
Sir Nigel Essenhigh
First Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Jonathon Band

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