A Look at Who’s Who In the UK Armed Forces

Secretary of State for Defence (Defence Secretary) – Gavin Williamson CBE

The Defence Secretary is an official within Her Majesty’s Government and head of the Ministry of Defence. The office is a British Cabinet–level position.

gavin_williamson_cbe.jpgThe post of Secretary of State for Defence was created on 1 April 1964.

The former Cabinet positions of First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air (responsible for the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force respectively) were incorporated into it and the offices of the Admiralty, War Office and the Air Ministry were abolished and their functions transferred to an expanded Ministry of Defence.

Appointed on the 2nd November 2017 – the current Secretary of State for Defence is Gavin Williamson.

Originally from Scarborough, Williamson was educated at Raincliffe School, a state comprehensive school, and the Scarborough Sixth Form College, where he studied ‘Government and Politics’ and ‘Economics’ as A-levels. He obtained a BSc in Social Sciences from the University of Bradford.

Williamson was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Patrick McLoughlin as Secretary of State for Transport and also to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in October 2013. On 14 July 2016, he was appointed Chief Whip in Theresa May’s government.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) – Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach GBEKCBADCDL 

The CDS is the professional head of the British Armed Forces and the most senior uniformed military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister.


The CDS maintains a close working relationship with the Ministry of Defence’s Permanent Under Secretary, who is the Ministry’s senior civil servant, and they both report directly to the Secretary of State for Defence. The CDS focusses on military operations and strategy while the Permanent Under Secretary’s remit concerns administrative and financial policy.

The current Chief of the Defence Staff is Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who succeeded General Sir Nicholas Houghton on 14 July 2016. Born on 22 February 1956 in Staffordshire, England, to Clifford Peach and Jean Mary Peach. He was educated at Aldridge Grammar School, in Aldridge, Staffordshire. He studied geography, economics, and social history at the University of Sheffield, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1977. He later studied at Downing College, Cambridge, and completed a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree in 1997.

Chief of the General Staff (CGS) – General Sir Nick Carter KCBCBEDSOADC Gen

The CGS reports to the CDS and is the professional head of the British Army. As well as being responsible for the running of the organisation they will advise The Defence Secretary and Prime Minister on operational military matters.

general_sir_nick_carter.jpgThe Chief of the General Staff (CGS) commands a single Army Staff which works out of Army HQ in Andover. CGS exercises command of the Army through three 3 star subordinate commanders: Commander Field Army (CFA), Commander Force Development and Training (FDT) and the Adjutant General (AG).

The current Chief of the General Staff is General Sir Nick Carter – having succeeded his predecessor, General Sir Peter Wall in September 2014. Born 11 February 1959 in Nairobi, Kenya. Carter was educated at Winchester College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets as second lieutenant on 8 April 1978.

The First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff (1SL) – Admiral Sir Philip Jones

The 1SL/CNS is the professional head of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. He is responsible to The Defence Secretary for the fighting effectiveness, efficiency and morale of the Naval Service, and supports the Prime Minister in the management and direction of the Armed Forces. Under the current organisation, the First Sea Lord sits on the Defence Council, the Admiralty Board and the Navy Board.

firstsealordThe current First Sea Lord is Admiral Sir Philip Jones. Born on 14 February 1960, he was educated at Birkenhead School and Mansfield College, Oxford before attending the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

After service in the South Atlantic in 1982 during the Falklands War, he commanded the frigates HMS Beaver and HMS Coventry. He went on to be Flag Officer, Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland, Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff before being appointed Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff. Jones took over as First Sea Lord on 8 April 2016.

Jones was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2014 Birthday Honours.

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) – Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen John HillierKCBCBEDFC, ADC

The CAS is in command of the Royal Air Force, leading a Whole Force of some 35000 Regular and Reserve personnel, and 5000 Civil Servants, supported by thousands of contractors.


He is personally accountable for the safe and effective operation of over 700 manned and unmanned aircraft and for meeting the airpower needs of Defence, which currently means thousands of people and every front-line force committed to operations world-wide. In addition to sustaining his people and this exceptionally high level of commitment, he is also responsible for delivering the significant growth in the RAF’s front-line capability announced in the 2015 Defence Review.

The CAS is accountable to The Defence Secretary for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fighting effectiveness and reports through the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS).

The current CAS is Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen John Hillier. Prior to assuming his current appointment in July 2016, he was the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability) in the Ministry of Defence between 2012 and 2016, responsible for strategic force design, balance of investment and capability coherence across all areas of UK joint military capability.