Admiral Sir Philip Jones takes over as First Sea Lord

Topic: PeopleSenior leaders

The torch of Naval leadership today changed hands as Admiral Sir Philip Jones took over as Britain’s senior sailor and his predecessor, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, stepped down after 35 years' serving his nation.

In the great cabin of the world’s oldest commissioned warship, HMS Victory, Admiral Zambellas formally handed over command of more than 30,000 men and women, nearly 90 warships, nuclear submarines and support vessels, the helicopters and jets of the Fleet Air Arm and the elite Naval infantry of the Royal Marines to the man who has overseen the day-to-day operations of the Royal Navy since 2013 as its Fleet Commander.

During his three-year spell in charge, Admiral Jones will oversee the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth’s entry into service. Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will begin sea trials and the world’s most advanced fifth generation jet aircraft, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, will operate from a Royal Navy ship for the first time.

Admiral Jones said: “We owe Sir George a huge debt of gratitude; through this vision and leadership, the Royal Navy’s credibility has been strengthened immeasurably, and with it our self-belief; it is a legacy that will stand the test of time.

"In these uncertain times, the Royal Navy continues to protect our nation’s interests at home and around the world. In the years ahead, the introduction of the two largest aircraft carriers, the largest warships in our history, will change entirely how the Royal Navy operates. Our sailors and marines are the best in the world, and I intend to keep it that way. With the support of our civil servants and our families, I will use all my energy and experience to lead them to success. Together, we will make the most of our opportunities, and address our challenges head-on, as we ready ourselves for this exciting new era of British maritime power."

In a sign of the high regard with which the Royal Navy is viewed internationally, the ceremony was attended by the head of the US Navy, Admiral John Richardson, and US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, and France’s Senior Naval officer, Admiral Bernard Rogel.

Admiral Zambellas joined the Royal Navy in September 1980 and served as a Sea King pilot before commanding three warships, including HMS Chatham which saw action during operations in Sierra Leone. As First Sea Lord he has overseen the ongoing programme to deliver the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review, which sets out a bold path of investment for the Royal Navy.

As his flag was lowered onboard HMS Victory, Admiral Zambellas said:

“It has been an enormous honour to lead the Royal Navy. The Senior Service has always played an important role in the UK’s defence and security. Now it has a leading role. This strategic responsibility will be delivered because the Navy is full of brilliant people – sailors, marines, civilians, and their supportive families. They have a fantastic future ahead of them, as they grow their Navy's capability and ambition. If I could, I'd join them all over again."

Admiral Jones joined the Navy in 1978, saw action in the Falklands Conflict aboard HMS Fearless – he’s one of the few veterans of the 1982 conflict still in the Service – and commanded the frigates HMS Beaver and HMS Coventry.

Together, we will make the most of our opportunities, and address our challenges head-on, as we ready ourselves for this exciting new era of British maritime power.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones