News story

Outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff honoured at farewell ceremony

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards formally handed over to his successor General Sir Nicholas Houghton today, 18 July.

The handover was marked by a ceremony at Horse Guards Parade in London which was attended by personnel from all 3 Services and MOD civilian staff, as well as members of the public and dignitaries from around the world, including senior military commanders past and present.

In his 3 years in the post General Richards has presided over a period of significant achievement for the Armed Forces, including:

  • supporting the Libyan people in the overthrowing of Colonel Gaddafi and contributing to the future of a stable, open and democratic Libya – the UK flew more than 3,000 sorties during the operation in 2011

  • making a huge contribution to the success of the London Olympics in 2012 – at the peak of the operation 18,200 personnel were deployed in various security and ceremonial roles, including maintaining a high-profile presence at event venues

  • enabling Afghanistan’s armed forces to take responsibility for the security of their country – the International Security Assistance Force mission, to which the UK is the second-largest contributor, has now trained more than 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police and the Afghan forces assumed the security lead across the whole country earlier this year

Armed Forces personnel on parade
The parade comprised personnel from the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, the Coldstream Guards and the RAF's Queen's Colour Squadron [Picture: Sergeant Jez Doak RAF, Crown copyright]

General Richards said:

I have enjoyed my service more than I could possibly have hoped. It has provided me with challenge, interest and the opportunity to make a positive difference to many people’s lives, from Northern Ireland to Afghanistan and lots of places in between.

I retire now with a huge sense of the privilege I have had to serve this nation as a soldier for 42 years, to serve Her Majesty The Queen, and to serve my comrades whom, on occasion, I have had the joy to lead.

The ceremony began with a general salute by detachments of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, supported by the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, with whom General Richards previously served as Colonel Commandant. General Richards was then invited to inspect the detachments alongside General Houghton.

The Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond hosted a dinner with all the Service Chiefs last night to mark General Richards’ departure. Speaking during today’s ceremony, he paid tribute to General Richards’ leadership since taking up the role in October 2010.

General Sir David Richards inspecting the Armed Forces detachments
General Sir David Richards inspecting the Armed Forces detachments at Horse Guards Parade [Picture: Sergeant Jez Doak RAF, Crown copyright]

Mr Hammond said:

General Richards served as Chief of the Defence Staff in a time of significant and varied challenges and his leadership has been vital in delivering success both at home and abroad. I look forward to working closely with General Houghton to build on the foundations laid by his predecessor.

General Houghton said:

This is an occasion to recognise the responsibility for the leadership of our nation’s Armed Forces. Although today is not about individuals or our private thoughts, it should be no surprise that David and I both share the same sense of the enormous responsibility and privilege which our appointment bestows.