The commanding officer of a submarine has lost his job after holding a barbecue party with dance music for his crew during the coronavirus lockdown.
Commander John Lewis remains in the Royal Navy and the decision to remove him from command of HMS Trenchant – a nuclear-powered, hunter killer submarine – was not just because of the barbecue, a defence source said.
The source said it followed a “number of incidents” when the naval officer’s judgement had come into question.
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: “We can confirm that the commanding officer of HMS Trenchant has been removed from command.
“While we are aware of the media interest in this issue, we are bound by employer confidentiality not to comment any further at this time.”
Video posted on social media last week apparently shows submariners watching what looks to be a makeshift DJ set, while sat at tables or standing on the dockside at a naval base in Devonport, Plymouth.
Cooks in white overalls can be seen standing on HMS Trenchant’s casing – the top of the boat – with a barbecue.
Commander Lewis had allegedly been told he could not have a barbecue on land given the lockdown, so apparently decided to have it physically onboard the submarine.
The exact date of the party is not clear but it is thought to have happened early on in the coronavirus lockdown, when the significant effort by the government to tell people to stay at home and not to socialise was just beginning.
Video of the dockside party was first posted on a Facebook page called “Fill Your Boots”.
The sight of a few dozen submariners – even though none of them could have COVID-19 because they had been together at sea when the pandemic hit the UK – gathered together was not thought to be a good idea by more senior officers.
An investigation was launched.
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The defence source said the barbecue alone – for a crew that was back for a short period of maintenance on the submarine before heading back out to sea – would not have triggered such a move.
The commanding officer of a submarine is one of the most elite jobs in the navy, requiring significant skill and training.
A new commanding officer for HMS Trenchant will be selected in due course, the Royal Navy said.