Former MP Ruth Smeeth has said she is “incredibly proud” at having been made an Honorary Captain in the Royal Naval Reserve in an appointment approved by the Queen.
The Jewish Labour Movement’s vice-chair was confirmed in the role, a six year long commission, at a commemoration ceremony for Jewish armed service personnel last week.
It will see her advocate for the Royal Navy on issues of importance, and include engagement with communities and improving the recruitment of women into the force.
Whilst in parliament Smeeth,42, was vice chair of the Armed Forces Group and led on the Royal Navy from the Labour backbench.
She has continued to offer her services in a voluntary role to the navy after leaving Westminster at the last election.
Smeeth told Jewish News of her belief that “women from the left can talk about matters of national security with a level of authority.”
Smeeth had been put forward for the role last year, and said she was “incredibly excited” after being told her name was awaiting final approval for the post from Her Majesty The Queen.
S/Sgt Dan Fox, Chairman of AJEX, The Jewish Military Association (JMA), who attended last Wednesday’s service with Smeeth, added the honour “is first and foremost a well-deserved recognition of her incredible public service over the last decades.”
Fox added that “as a leading member of our community” Smeeth’s appointment “also reflects the historic relationship between the Royal Navy and Jews, going back to the resettlement. ”
He said:”Eight of the eleven earliest non-London Jewish communities were seaports and as well as selling to the crews, Jewish traders also helped them cash their wage tickets without having to travel to the Navy Pay Office in London.
“Jews served in the Royal Navy in the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars, and of course in every conflict since. Ruth’s rank and role continues this tradition of the many ways in which Jews have supported service at sea.”
During last week’s event at the national memorial, which was the annual commemoration for both Jewish service personnel and veterans, three rabbis led a rendition of Adon Alom.
In 1984, the Jewish naval historian Geoffrey Green wrote: “Jews and sailors, therefore, were not an unlikely association. Contrary to popular belief, there was a certain affinity between them; both knew hardship, public disparagement and contempt. Economic circumstances brought them together.”
Smeeth, who has been CEO of the Index for Censorship organisation for two years, is widely predicted to make a return to Westminster after the next election, following her time as MP for Stoke on Trent North.
She is seen as being close politically to leader Keir Stermer, with both viewing patriotism as a core ideological belief.
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