New army head is not afraid to speak his mind

General Sir David Richards, who was named next head of the Army today, is currently commander-in-chief of the land forces.

He led Nato forces in Afghanistan in 2006/07, and commanded British troops in Sierra Leone in 2000.

Educated at Eastbourne College, Gen Richards was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1971, and after graduating in international relations at University College Cardiff, spent nine years on regimental duty in the Far East, Germany and the UK.

The general, now 56, completed three tours of duty in Northern Ireland, and was mentioned in despatches.

He rose to command the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in the early 1990s, and was made brigadier in 1996.

Two years later he became the UK's default commander for operations carried out at short notice, in which role he led the British contingent in East Timor in 1999 and twice commanded a UK joint task force in Sierra Leone in 2000.

He served as commander of the Nato operation in Afghanistan between May 2006 and February 2007.

Gen Richards has shown his willingness to speak his mind in public, calling in a recent interview for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, although not necessarily from Britain.

According to The Independent, he privately believes that a "surge" of 30,000 troops is needed to fight the Taliban, with 5,000 from the UK and the rest from the United States and the newly-trained Afghan army.

The general is married with two daughters, and away from his military duties he is a keen yachtsman and gardener.