General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO DL
General David Richards led operations in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. He is probably best known for his command in Sierra Leone in 2000 when he interpreted his orders creatively to achieve more than was at first thought possible, ensuring the ultimate defeat of the RUF rebels and the avoidance of much bloodshed in the capital Freetown. He went on to command NATO forces in Afghanistan during the Alliance’s expansion of responsibility across the whole country. Having first commanded the British Army, in 2010 he became Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of Britain’s armed forces and their strategic commander as well as the Prime Minister’s military adviser and a member of the National Security Council. His UK operational awards include a Mention in Despatches, Commander of the British Empire, Distinguished Service Order and Knight Commander of the Bath; the first officer to receive an operational knighthood since World War 2. In 2011 he received the annual Churchillian Award for leadership. He retired in July 2013.
David was created Baron Richards of Herstmonceux in February 2014 and now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. Amongst other appointments he is a visiting Professor of Exeter University and an Honorary Fellow of both King’s College London and Cardiff University. Until recently he was Executive Chairman of Equilibrium Global the geo-strategic advisory company. He is actively involved with a number of charities, especially the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League of which he is the Grand President. A keen sailor he is a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, the Royal Cruising Club and the Royal Artillery Yacht Club. His autobiography Taking Command was published in October 2014. His second book, on the death of Grand Strategy, is due to be published in June 2024. He lectures extensively on strategy and leadership.
Interviewed for Desert Island Discs in 2014 David received widespread praise for saying: “I see myself as a moral soldier. I do not associate the military with wars and bloodshed in the narrow sense. I associate the military with doing good, bringing down tyrants, with releasing people’s ambitions for their children.” It neatly sums up the moral code he sought to apply to his time as a professional soldier.