Lieutenant General (Retired) Sir Simon Mayall KBE, CB Much of General Mayall’s 40 year military career has been marked by a focus on the Middle East, and his experience and understanding of the region is long-standing and deep. In 1985, having learned colloquial Arabic, he was seconded to the Sultan’s Armed Forces, commanding an Omani tank squadron. He was the Operations Officer for the 1st (UK) Armoured Division in Operation DESERT STORM, the liberation of Kuwait. Before commanding his Regiment, 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, he went to Balliol College, and then St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he wrote a book on Turkish security policy. He subsequently completed an MA at King’s College, where his thesis was on Jihad philosophy and the ‘Civil War’ within Islam. He is also an avid student of Crusading history.
As Commander of 1st Mechanised Brigade, he was deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and in 2006-2007 he was Deputy Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps (Iraq), based in Baghdad, during the period of the fight against AQ-I, the Sunni ‘Awakening’ and the ‘Surge’. The following year he was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff and then, in 2009, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments) with policy responsibility for global operations, particularly in Afghanistan. With the election of the Coalition Government of 2010, he was appointed as the first Defence Senior Adviser Middle East (DSAME), responsible for re-energising the UK’s security relationships with partners in the Gulf, the Near East and North Africa. This period coincided with the complexities of the ‘Arab Spring’, the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, the Syrian ‘civil war’ and the rise of ‘Islamic State’. In 2014, after the fall of Mosul to ISIS, he became the Prime Minister’s Security Envoy to Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government. He was instrumental in establishing the new Royal Navy base in Bahrain.
General Mayall retired from the Army in July 2015, and was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London. He is a Senior Adviser with Greenhill, Coutts Bank, and Viaro Energy, and the Director of Sandcrest Consulting. He is a regular contributor on Middle East and Defence and Security issues on television, radio and in the press, and he lectures on related subjects to many academic and business fora. His book, ‘Soldier in the Sand – a Personal History of the Modern Middle East’, was published in late 2020. He was knighted in 2014, and has also received the US Legion of Merit for services in Iraq.