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Montevideo, May 23rd 2019 - 18:59 UTC

Former First Sea Lord furious with gender controversy in referring to ships

Thursday, April 25th 2019 - 06:57 UTC
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Lord West said that the move is “stark staring bonkers” and “political correctness gone mad” To change it in this trite fashion is just absolutely stupid. (Pic PA) Lord West said that the move is “stark staring bonkers” and “political correctness gone mad” To change it in this trite fashion is just absolutely stupid. (Pic PA)

The decision to scrap the “she” title for boats will “insult generations of sailors”, the former head of the Navy says. In a piece published in the Daily Mail, Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord, has spoken out after a British maritime museum began referring to ships it exhibits as “it” in a bid to appear gender neutral.

In a rare move, BBC Radio 4's today program took a call from a listener, Lord West, after he was so incensed by the news that he rang the show.

He said that the move is “stark staring bonkers” and “political correctness gone mad”, adding: “It's a sort of insult to generations of sailors, the ships are seen almost as a mother to preserve us from the dangers of the sea and also from the violence of the enemy. To change it in this trite fashion is just absolutely stupid.

”We've done it for centuries as that's how we refer to them, we have to be very careful with little tiny pressure groups that make people change things. It's a very dangerous road we are going down.

“I don't think it's dated at all...sometimes things that are dated are there for very good reasons and I am very proud of some of those facts.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy agreed that the tradition should not be changed, and added: “The Royal Navy has a long tradition of referring to its ships as ‘she’ and will continue to do so.”

The row began after the Scottish Maritime Museum near Troon changed its naming policy after vandals scratched out references to boats as “she” on information signs, forcing the charity’s director to scrap the gender-specific term altogether.

A 19th century steam yacht called ‘Rifle’, which once carried Queen Victoria across Loch Arkaig while she was visiting Inverlochy castle in 1873, had its display signs defaced last week in the latest attack.

Museum director David Mann has vowed to update all signage around the building with gender neutral terms.

“We are moving in line with other maritime institutions,” said Mr Mann, who reported the incident to the police.

“The debate around gender and ships is wide ranging, pitting tradition against the modern world. But I think that we have to move with the times and understand the way people look at things today.”

On social media, supporters of the museum expressed their dismay. “This isn’t how it works. You don't get to erase history, and like it or not ships have always been referred to as she,” said Jennifer Sorbara.

Lloyd's List, a weekly shipping publication which ran in print for more than 250 years, has already abandoned centuries of seafaring tradition by calling all vessels, it.

Julian Bray, the former editor, wrote: “The shipping industry does need to move forward if it is not to risk becoming a backwater of international business. They are maritime real estate. The world moves on. I can see why 'she' would suit a magnificent cruise liner but to a rusting old hulk it could be rather offensive”

Categories: Politics, International.

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