First Woman To Command A Warship In Royal Navy History

Claire Gordon

The British navy has been around for half a millennium, and it's changed a lot in that time. For example, it no longer sails through the Americas and Indian subcontinent declaring everything property of the crown. But in one major way it hasn't changed: Every frontline warship has been helmed by a man.

On Monday, 40-year-old Sarah West made history, reports the BBC, when she took command of the HMS Portland, a Type 23 frigate. When Henry VIII created the Royal Navy, he could never have predicted this day. West will be leading a crew of 185 -- a crew of mostly men.

West joined the Navy 16 years ago, after graduating with an honors degree in mathematics. In that time, she's served in the Middle East, and helped evacuate thousands of Britons from Beirut in 2006, as artillery fire rained down.