A leading UK pharmacist has become the first Indian-born recipient of the position of Honorary Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy. The Navy’s first Indian Honorary Officer is Raj Aggarwal, a prominent Cardiff based pharmacist who is also India’s Honorary Consul in Wales.
The appointment, by Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB, ADC, following approval by Her Majesty the Queen, means Raj is now granted the rank of Honorary Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, equivalent to the rank of Major in the Army.
At Raj’s investiture yesterday (Sunday 16th September) was the Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns, head of the Royal Navy in Wales, Royal Marines Brigadier Graeme “Jock” Fraser, Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan Morfudd Meredith, HMS Cambria’s CO Commander Steve Fry, Cardiff’s Lord Mayor Diane Rees, and representing the Indian Navy was Commodore Sameer Saxena.
This latest honorary commission follows on from the granting of several other high profile honorary positions, for celebrities including Carol Voderman, Bear Grylls, Dan Snow, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Lord Sterling and Sir Chris Hoy, aimed at strengthening relationships with the armed services. Each honorary officer brings a breadth of experience and makes a contribution in their own distinct way.
Royal Marine Brigadier Graeme “Jock” Fraser said: “Raj is a great friend and advocate of the Naval service and his appointment will deepen the relationship between the community and the Royal Navy. Your armed forces are inclusive employers; we recognise the value of diversity and proudly serve all members of our communities at home and overseas. As the only Honorary Royal Navy officer in Wales, it is fitting that we celebrate his appointment . Raj will wear his Naval officer’s uniform at the ceremony with pride.”
The official inauguration ceremony was called a Royal Naval Mela, (Mela is a Hindu term meaning festival) and took place yesterday (Sunday, September 16th from 2.30pm to 5.30pm) at HMS Cambria, the only Royal Navy base in Wales. At the event a large number of the Indian community in Wales attending and traditional Indian musicians and dancers performed on the day.
Raj Aggarwal said: “It is my great honour to accept this position in the Royal Navy as one of the ‘special’ honoraries.. I want to use this position to create greater diversity in the Navy, to show the community that the Navy will be supportive and that there are amazing careers on offer, with first rate skills-training and opportunities to see the world.
And Raj added: “I deeply admire our Royal Navy, they are our Senior Service and are respected worldwide. They work that they do is usually away from home and out of sight and we hear very little of their service, they just go about their duties with the utmost professionalism and commitment to our country. Whether it be humanitarian relief, peace keeping missions, protecting trade routes, counter narcotics operations, our Navy is there, quietly looking after us and keeping Britain safe.”
Raj emigrated from Kenya to Wales in 1967 and studied Pharmacy at Cardiff University. Raj settled in Cardiff after a career as a senior executive with Boots. He is the chairman of RK Aggarwal Ltd and ran a successful chain of pharmacies in Cardiff. Besides sitting on a number of influential boards, as chairman of Kidney Wales he was instrumental in changing the opt-out law for organ donations in Wales, which was introduced in December 2015 and has significantly improved organ donations in a move that will save many lives.