Jonathon Riley

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For the American distance-running Olympian, see Jonathon Riley (athlete).
Jonathon Riley
Jonathon Riley.JPG
Lieutenant General Jonathon Riley
Born (1955-01-16) 16 January 1955 (age 60)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1971–2009
Rank Lieutenant-General
Service number 497496
Unit Queen's Regiment
Commands held 1st Bn, Royal Welch Fusiliers
GOC, Multi-National Division (South-East)
Deputy Commander, ISAF
Battles/wars The Troubles
Sierra Leone
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Legion of Merit

Lieutenant-General Jonathon Peter Riley, CB, DSO (born 16 January 1955) is a retired British Army officer and military historian.[1]

Early and personal life[edit]

Riley was brought up in Yorkshire, and educated at St Mary's School in Beverley and Kingston Grammar School, before gaining a degree in geography from University College, London, a Master's degree in history at Leeds University and a PhD at Cranfield.

Military career[edit]

Riley joined the British army as a cadet in 1971[2] was commissioned into the Queen's Regiment in 1974.[3] He was promoted to lieutenant on 9 March 1976,[4] to captain on 9 September 1980,[5] and, having attended the Staff College, Camberley in 1987, he was promoted to major at the end of the year.[6] During this time he saw active service in Northern Ireland.[1]

Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1993,[7] Riley undertook a tour as an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley that year. He was deployed as Commanding Officer of the 1st Bn The Royal Welch Fusiliers to the Muslim enclave of Goražde in 1995 under a mandate to ensure the Serbs did not violate the NATO ultimatum. The Army of Republika Srpska attacked the town without warning, capturing 33 soldiers under Riley's command and several hundred other fellow United Nations peacekeepers in May. Left without adequate weapons to repel the attacks, Riley himself was forced to retreat into the underground bunkers with his remaining men to wait for reinforcements and broke with protocol to report the battalion's dire situation to Prime Minister John Major over the phone.[8] Nevertheless the enclave was successfully defended and unlike Srebrenica and Zepa it never fell to the Serbs; the 33 Fusiliers and fellow UN peacekeepers were later rescued safely.[9] He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallant and distinguished services in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in 1996[10] and promoted to full colonel in July 1997.[11]

Promoted to brigadier on 31 December 1998,[12] Riley became Commander of 1st Mechanised Brigade in Bosnia in 1999 and Commander of the UK Joint Task Force in Sierra Leone in 2000.[13] He was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service for his service in Sierra Leone[14] and became Deputy Commandant of the Staff College and Director of the Higher Command and Staff Course in 2001.[15]

Riley was deployed as Deputy Commanding General of the Coalition Military Advisory and Training Team in Iraq in May 2003 and then became Commanding General Multi-National Division (South East), Iraq and GOC British Forces in November 2004 with promotion to major-general.[16] In 2005, he was awarded the United States' Legion of Merit for his service in Iraq.[17]

Riley served as honorary colonel of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, from 2006 to 2007.[18][19]

On 18 December 2007, Riley was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and appointed deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.[20][21] He was awarded the NATO Meritorious Service Medal by the Secretary-General of NATO and, having been appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2008 New Year Honours,[22] he transferred to the reserve on 15 September 2009.[23]

On 14 December 2009, Riley gave evidence to The Iraq Inquiry in which he stated that British troops had not expected to be faced with an insurgency and also defended the decision to disband the Iraqi Army after the invasion.[24] Then in February 2011 he gave evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadžić at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague on the incident in May 1995 when his troops had been held in captivity.[9]

Riley was appointed Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries, Britain's national collection of arms and armour, early in September 2009 and suspended in November 2012 having been appointed Visiting Professor in War Studies at King's College London.[25]


Riley has written and edited a number of books on military history, including:

  • History of the Queen's, 1959 - 1970. 1984. 
  • From Pole to Pole: Life of Quintin Riley, 1905-80 (1987)
  • The Monitor Mission in the Balkans (1992)
  • White Dragon: The Royal Welch Fusiliers in Bosnia (editor) (1995)
  • Napoleon and the World War of 1813 (2000)[26]
  • Regimental Records of The Royal Welch Fusiliers, Vol VI 1945–1969 and Vol VII 1970 - 2000 (2001)
  • The Life and Campaigns of General Hughie Stockwell: From Norway, Through Burma, to Suez (2007)[27]
  • Napoleon as a General: Command from the Battlefield to Grand Strategy (2007)[28]
  • Up to Mametz - and Beyond. 2010. 
  • The First Colonial Soldiers: A Survey of British overseas territories and their garrisons, 1650 - 1714. Volume I (co-authored with Wienand Drenth). Drenth Publishing. 2014. ISBN 978-90-818887-2-1. 


  1. ^ a b "Toughest test of brawn and brains". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd). 14 January 2005. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46427. p. 12552. 10 December 1974. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46464. p. 518. 14 January 1975. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46845. p. 3579. 9 March 1976. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48337. p. 14263. 14 October 1980. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51080. pp. 12383–12385. 5 October 1987. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53363. p. 11368. 6 July 1993. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  8. ^ "Commander in Bosnia mission impossible". BBC. 5 December 2002. 
  9. ^ a b "UN soldiers used as human shields". International Court of Justice. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 54393. p. 6547. 10 May 2006. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54820. pp. 7550–7551. 1 July 1997. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55365. p. 53. 5 January 1999. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  13. ^ Operation Telic
  14. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56373. p. 12748. 30 October 2001. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Major General Jonathon Riley DSO MA". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). 2003. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  16. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57502. p. 15982. 21 December 2004. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57751. p. 11649. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57641. p. 6410. 17 May 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58264. p. 3235. 6 March 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58546. p. 18310. 18 December 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  21. ^ "Farah PRT celebrates development projects increase". 6 January 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58557. p. 2. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  23. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59146. p. 13373. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  24. ^ "US would not 'admit' the insurgency in post-war Iraq". BBC News (BBC). 15 December 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  25. ^ "General takes post at Royal Armouries". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  26. ^ Riley, Jonathon (2000). Napoleon and the World War of 1813: lessons in coalition warfighting. ISBN 0-7146-4893-0. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  27. ^ Riley, Jonathon (2007). The Life and Campaigns of General Hughie Stockwell: From Norway, Through Burma, to Suez (Illustrated ed.). Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1-84415-504-0. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  28. ^ Riley, Jonathon (2007). Napoleon as a General (Illustrated ed.). Hambledon Continuum. ISBN 978-1-84725-180-0. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Bill Rollo
General Officer Commanding
Multi-National Division (South East), Iraq

Succeeded by
James Dutton
Preceded by
New post
Deputy Commander, ISAF
Succeeded by
Sir James Dutton