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HMS Cornwall commander removed after Iran hostage debacle
* Peter Walker and agencies
* Monday July 28 2008
A Royal Navy Commander has been removed from his ship after 15 of his sailors and marines were captured by Iran last year.
Commander Jeremy Woods, captain of the frigate HMS Cornwall, had been moved "to a post where his talents and experience can be used to best effect", the Ministry of Defence said.
An MoD spokesman declined to say whether the decision was connected to events in March last year, described at the time by the head of the navy as a "bad day" for the service.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured the seven Royal Marines and eight sailors at gunpoint after they left the Cornwall in a small vessel to search a ship in the Gulf between Iran and Iraq.
Iran – which insisted the group was in Iranian waters, something the UK denied – held them for 13 days before releasing them in a choreographed publicity exercise orchestrated by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Aside from the issue of the capture, the navy's embarrassment was heightened by the way the crew appeared willing to be paraded before the world's media in Iranian-provided suits, shaking Ahmadinejad's hand and smiling cheerfully.
Further criticism followed after two of the captives, Faye Turney and Arthur Batchelor, were allowed to sell their stories to the media. The latter was particularly castigated for complaining that his iPod had been taken.
In December, the Commons defence committee called the affair a "national embarrassment" and called for formal disciplinary measures against those responsible.
Woods is a navy veteran of 23 years who took command of HMS Cornwall in late 2006 after captaining a minesweeper, HMS Bangor.
"This is an internal administrative matter between the individual and his senior officers and we will not give further details," a spokesman said.
"Cdr Woods will continue to serve in the Royal Navy." HMS Cornwall was engaged in sea training and a new commander would be appointed, he added.
The capture of the boarding party was described by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the first sea lord, as "one bad day in our proud 400-year history".
An internal MoD inquiry into the affair blamed a combination of bad intelligence, inadequate training, confused communications and poor judgment by senior military commanders.
The defence secretary, Des Browne, did not make public the inquiry's findings. However, in June last year he did tell the Commons that there was no fault in the fact that HMS Cornwall's Lynx helicopter returned to the ship during the boarding operation.