Military Wiki

A recent Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the professional head of the British Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the British Government. Constitutionally, the British Monarch is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and therefore is senior to the CDS. In practice the Government provide direction through the Defence Council of which the CDS is a member. The post was created in 1959 to reflect the new conceptions of joint operations that had come to the fore in World War II. Prior to the creation of the post, Sir William Dickson served as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1956 onwards. Before 1956, although no permanent post of chairman existed, the three service chiefs took it in turn to act as chairman.

From the creation of the post until 1997, the Chief of the Defence Staff was appointed to the highest rank in the branch of the British armed forces to which he belonged, being an Admiral of the Fleet, a Field Marshal or Marshal of the Royal Air Force, (NATO rank code OF-10). However, with the post-Cold War size of the British Armed Forces and the reasoning that no new Field Marshals are to be routinely appointed in peacetime, since 1997 the Chief of the Defence Staff has been appointed at the rank of Admiral, General or Air Chief Marshal, (NATO OF-9). The CDS is supported by a deputy, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, who since 1997 has been of equivalent rank but is ordinarily from a different service to the CDS.

Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup who succeeded General Sir Michael Walker on 28 April 2006 was succeeded by David Richards in October 2010.[1]

Chiefs of the Defence Staff

Sir William Dickson, the first CDS


Lord Mountbatten, the longest serving CDS

Sir Peter Inge, the last 5 star CDS

Name Branch Date appointed Time in appointment Relinquished appointment
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson GCB, KBE, DSO, AFC[2]  Royal Air Force 1 January 1959   50000000000000000000 years, 7002192000000000000192 days   12 July 1959  
Admiral of the Fleet The Earl Mountbatten of Burma KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO  Royal Navy 13 July 1959   70006000000000000006 years, 70002000000000000002 days   15 July 1965  
Field Marshal Sir Richard Hull KG, GCB, DSO  British Army 16 July 1965   70002000000000000002 years, 700119000000000000019 days   4 August 1967  
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Charles Elworthy KG, GCB, CBE, DSO, LVO, DFC, AFC[3]  Royal Air Force 7 August 1967   70003000000000000003 years, 7002244000000000000244 days   8 April 1971  
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton GCB  Royal Navy 9 April 1971   70002000000000000002 years, 7002195000000000000195 days   21 October 1973  
Field Marshal Sir Michael Carver GCB, CBE, DSO, MC  British Army 22 October 1973   70003000000000000003 years, 70001000000000000001 day   23 October 1976  
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Andrew Humphrey GCB, OBE, DFC, AFC  Royal Air Force 24 October 1976   50000000000000000000 years, 700192000000000000092 days   24 January 1977  
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Ashmore GCB, DSC  Royal Navy 9 February 1977   50000000000000000000 years, 7002202000000000000202 days   30 August 1977  
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron KT, GCB, CBE, DSO, DFC[4]  Royal Air Force 31 August 1977   70002000000000000002 years, 50000000000000000000 days   31 August 1979  
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin KG, GCB, LVO, DSC  Royal Navy 1 September 1979   70003000000000000003 years, 700129000000000000029 days   30 September 1982  
Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall KG, GCB, OBE, MC  British Army 1 October 1982   70003000000000000003 years, 700130000000000000030 days   31 October 1985  
Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fieldhouse GCB, GBE  Royal Navy 1 November 1985   70003000000000000003 years, 700138000000000000038 days   9 December 1988  
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir David Craig GCB, OBE  Royal Air Force 9 December 1988   70002000000000000002 years, 7002113000000000000113 days   1 April 1991  
Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent GBE, KCB, DSO  British Army 2 April 1991   70001000000000000001 year, 7002273000000000000273 days   31 December 1992  
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Peter Harding GCB  Royal Air Force 1 January 1993   70001000000000000001 year, 700171000000000000071 days   13 March 1994  
Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge KG, GCB  British Army 14 March 1994   70003000000000000003 years, 700118000000000000018 days   1 April 1997  
General Sir Charles Guthrie GCB, LVO, OBE  British Army 2 April 1997   70003000000000000003 years, 7002319000000000000319 days   15 February 2001  
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce GCB, OBE  Royal Navy 16 February 2001   70002000000000000002 years, 700175000000000000075 days   2 May 2003  
General Sir Michael Walker GCB, CMG, CBE  British Army 4 May 2003   70002000000000000002 years, 7002359000000000000359 days   28 April 2006  
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup GCB, AFC  Royal Air Force 28 April 2006   70004000000000000004 years, 7002184000000000000184 days   October 2010  
General Sir David Richards GCB, CBE, DSO  British Army   October 2010   70002000000000000002 years, 7002262000000000000262 days July 2013
General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB,CBE  British Army July 2013 70002000000000000002 years, 7002362000000000000362 days July 2016
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach GBE,KCB,DL  Royal Air Force July 2016 70001000000000000001 year, 7002332000000000000332 days June 2018
General Sir Nicholas Carter GCB,CBE,DSO  British Army June 2018

See also


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