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Royal Navy’s ‘first – but definitely not last’ female admiral takes command

17 January 2022
A century-old ‘glass ceiling’ in the Royal Navy shattered today as Jude Terry became the first female admiral in its history.

And with the numbers, breadth of talent and experience of women in today’s Senior Service, she believes there will be many more women to reach the rank – and go higher.

After nearly 25 years’ service around the globe and at home in the UK, the 48-year-old from Jersey takes the helm as Director of People and Training and Naval Secretary.

That makes the rear admiral responsible not only for more than 40,000 regular and reservist sailors and Royal Marines, but also the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – who operate the Navy’s crucial support ships – plus civil servants and contractors, all part of the gigantic jigsaw which allows the Royal Navy to operate around the globe 24/7/365.

Women have served in the Royal Navy since the Wrens in World War 1 and have been going to sea since 1990. Today there is no position or branch of the Service not open to women.

She says the fact that she is a woman is irrelevant to her post and rank – simply that “someone has to be first” and she most definitely will not be the last; there are currently four female commodores (the next rank down) and 20 female captains.

Passionate about diversity, inclusivity, equality and social mobility, she believes talent, ability and dedication are the only factors determining success: background, education and patronage count for nothing, what you personally bring to the Royal Navy is everything.

“The world has changed in terms of what people want from life and careers, whatever their gender, and the Navy needs to work to modernise our organisation to support this change – a diverse and inclusive workforce is a better place for all but is also proven to deliver better outcomes,” Admiral Terry said.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key says Admiral Terry is “a great example of all the amazing women serving today – and a role model for all who serve and those who follow.”

She took the reins of her department from her predecessor Rear Admiral Phil Hally following a ceremony aboard HMS Victory in Portsmouth, continuing and building upon many of the changes he has introduced under the Royal Navy’s sweeping Transformation programme to forge a force to rise to the challenges – social, technological, ecological, economic and military – in the world of today and tomorrow. 

To do so Admiral Terry says requires a Navy which is modern in its makeup, processes and outlook following the maxim: Join well, train well, live well, leave well.
“It is an absolute honour and privilege to assume the post of Director People and Training and Naval Secretary today,” she said.

“Our people and their families are at the heart of our ability to deliver on operations abroad and in the UK. I look forward to leading my team in supporting them, using modern approaches, helping us all to be the best we can be, and building on the work already done by my predecessor.

“Last week, when Vice Admiral Hine left as Second Sea Lord, he said: ‘You should strive to leave the Service in a better place than you found it’. I’m aiming to build on what we’ve done already to continue to do that.” 

a great example of all the amazing women serving today – and a role model for all who serve and those who follow.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben

Beyond immediate issues impacting today’s Navy, Admiral Terry’s department is also charged with helping to shape the Royal Navy and its people up to 2040, when there will still be two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers in service, alongside new Dreadnought-class submarines, three new classes of frigates and a new generation of destroyers.

It’s quite a challenge for someone who joined the Navy in 1997 as a 24-year-old graduate and only planned to stay for eight years.

At the time, no female officer had commanded a warship. There were few role models, and fewer still with seagoing experience.

Eight years turned into 25 because, she says, “if you enjoy your job, you keep on doing it. I have been really lucky to have worked with some amazing people throughout my career and been supported by my family and friends and no two days are ever the same which is what I love about my job.”

Since joining the Royal Navy in 1997, Admiral Terry has served aboard survey vessel HMS Scott, and spent two spells with helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, the latter as Commander Logistics during operations in the Baltic and Gulf.

Last year she represented the UK alongside senior female military officers from across NATO and allied/partner nations on Halifax International Security Forum’s Peace With Women Fellowship, which helps shape both future democracy and global security, with a particular emphasis on leadership roles for women in these key areas.

Admiral Terry also helped plan the withdrawal of UK fighting forces from Afghanistan (that involved reducing the footprint of 9,500 personnel to around 5,000).

And as military assistant to the Chief of Joint Operations, who was responsible for more than 20 operations worldwide she was amongst the first personnel on the ground in Sierra Leone during the successful operation to stop the spread of Ebola in 2014.

Those efforts during her three-year spell at the Permanent Joint Headquarters, during which she was also involved in the end of Operation Herrick and the establishment of Operation Toral in Afghanistan, overseeing the drawdown of bases at Lashkar Gar, Bastion and Kandahar, earned her the OBE.

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