Army

Watch: General Sir Patrick Sanders – who is the next British Army chief?

With war on land coming to Europe for the first time in decades, meet the cyber warfare expert taking over as the head of the British Army.

General Sir Patrick Sanders will officially take over the role of Chief of the General Staff.

He will be taking over as head of the British Army from General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith in June 2022.

But who is Gen Sanders and what is his military background?

Gen Sir Patrick Sanders was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets in 1986. He spent his early career at regimental duty in Germany, Norway and the UK.

He has commanded at company, battalion, brigade, and divisional level, including on operations in Northern Ireland (multiple tours), Kosovo (1999 and 2002), Bosnia (2001), Iraq (2007), and Afghanistan (2011-12).

His staff appointments have all been in operational and strategic roles, including as policy/military adviser for the Commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, Head Operations (Military) and Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations) in the Ministry of Defence.

He is thought to be the most senior officer in the military to talk about depression, after his experiences in Iraq, where he lost a number of his own infantry regiment.

In 2007, Sir Patrick was the Commanding Officer of 4th Battalion The Rifles during the drawdown of British troops in Basra.

In an interview published on the Army's Twitter page, he said: "I was depressed. There were periods of time when I had suicidal thoughts, and it took a good chunk of time to come back from that on the back of a violent tour."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has described Gen Sanders as "an exceptional military leader", who has played a key role in shaping the military's future "by reflecting the new and emerging threats posed by cyber and 'grey zone' warfare".

"General Sanders takes up his new role at a critically important time for the British Army and at a pivotal time for the organisation and management of our land forces as we witness the unprovoked attack by Russia forces across Ukraine," he said.

During a speech in September 2021 – at one of the world's largest arms fairs, in London – Gen Sanders spoke about the growing importance of cyber know-how within the military.

He said the Armed Forces "have more need of Qs than 007s or M".

He called for the UK military to become "more adept at operating with agility" and called for the Armed Forces "to place equal value and afford equal status to computer scientists, data engineers and cyber operators as we do on the traditional warrior elite".

Sir Patrick was promoted to General in May 2019 before taking over as Commander Joint Forces, managing the organisation's move to Strategic Command.