Roy spent some years in the Royal Navy. He joined HMS Ganges as a Junior Seaman and stepped down as a Rear Admiral to become a professional museum director. His first career saw him command various ships including the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible; and he was Commodore Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth.

Since then his roles have included Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and Director of Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand. He is currently a Trustee of several charities and chairs Chelmsford Cultural Development Trust.

An active yachtsman, Roy was once keen on ocean racing, but nowadays he sails purely for pleasure. He and his wife Sarah (an Anglican priest) live in Tollesbury, Essex. They have three adult children and two granddaughters.
In 2007 Roy was made CBE ‘for services to museums’; in 2018 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex.