It was a proud day for naval captain from Banbury as she took the reins of the Royal Navy’s own medical branch in a special ceremony.
Ali Hofman took charge of the 270-strong Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (Qarnns) at the event on veteran warship HMS Victory, in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, on August 2.
The 47-year-old is believed to have become the first person in naval history to begin her career as a student naval nurse at 18 and rise through the ranks to lead the service.
Capt Hofman said: “I’m feeling excited, really excited. I joined the navy as a student naval nurse, I came through HMS Raleigh and I was a petty officer before I commissioned.
“So for me, to have started off as a student naval nurse and to now be heading the leadership of the Qarnns is an amazing moment.
“We think I’m the first person in history to have been a student naval nurse to have gone right the way through which is a nice achievement.”
The new position is the latest in a string of achievements for Capt Hofman, who lives in Banbury but will now be based in Portsmouth.
She was the first naval nurse to be a department instructor at HMS Raleigh, the centre where the navy trains all its junior sailors.
After commissioning as an officer she ran a watch in the intensive care unit on RFA Argus during the war in Iraq.
She also did a tour of Afghanistan and led Camp Bastion’s field hospital in 2009, the first woman to do so.
It was her most challenging deployment and saw her tending trauma injuries and blast wounds on a daily basis during her seven-month stint at the hospital.
She helped to save the lives of wounded British troops, as well as hundreds of American and other coalition personnel, Afghan soldiers and civilians and even wounded Taliban prisoners.
Her efforts saw her being presented with the Royal Red Cross for her work.
The leadership handover ceremony took place on the deck of HMS Victory, which also saw the ship being presented with a Qarnns plaque.
It is the first time the ship received the plaque and fell on the 102nd anniversary of the birth of Eliza McKenzie, who founded the nursing unit.