The newly appointed head of the Armed Forces undermined a Royal Marines general who killed himself at the weekend, according to messages from the officer.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, 55, yesterday became the first naval officer for two decades to land the top job and will lead 159,000 soldiers, sailors and air personnel from next month.
His appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff came days after the death of Major General Matt Holmes, 54. The former Commandant General of the Marines was found dead at his family home in Winchester, Hampshire, on Saturday. There were no suspicious circumstances.
Former First Sea Lord Sir Tony and Major General Holmes were previously close friends, but fell out bitterly over changes to the Marines this year. The dispute led to Major General Holmes leaving his post as Commandant General in April – halfway through a three-year appointment.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, 55, (pictured) yesterday became the first naval officer for two decades to land the top job and will lead 159,000 soldiers, sailors and air personnel from next month
Now a Daily Mail investigation has found that he felt deeply let down by the admiral, who was his boss as the Marines are part of the Navy. A directive from Sir Tony’s office included a gagging order banning the Marines officer from discussing key issues with colleagues, including the commander of the US Marine Corps (USMC), General David Berger.
Major General Holmes was also warned to ‘expect a more limited role’ in the Marines. The order and the tone of Sir Tony’s remarks left the father-of-two deeply upset. He wrote to a friend: ‘I’ve had a very tough year. I feel beaten down. Not listened to, merely run over by someone with no military judgment: Too much is about appearance.
‘I don’t trust Radakin. It’s been awful. Awful. You should see the tone of some of the emails I’ve had from Radakin. Basically imposing his authority and keeping me constrained.
‘Kept away from ministers. All about his narrative. He doesn’t get the corps. But I know Gen Berger recognises my concerns (another one that Radakin ordered me not to engage with regarding my post).
Former First Sea Lord Sir Tony and Major General Holmes (left) were previously close friends, but fell out bitterly over changes to the Marines this year
‘Radakin sees himself as owning the USMC relationship. Berger doesn’t! At all. He wants to talk to me. How do you think I feel…’
Sir Tony’s efforts to bring the Commandant General into line came to a head late last year after a series of heated arguments between the two about the future of Major General Holmes’ post.
A document distributed to senior officers read: ‘I [Sir Tony] will engage with ministers and our international partners. The debate has to be toned down and ideally stopped. This is about my authority. International engagement by CGRM [Major General Holmes] is to stop. The CGRM focus is to ensure the corps delivers on its tasks, seeking opportunities for increased integration with the Royal Navy and preparing for a more limited role as CGRM from April 2021.’
The pair are also said to have disagreed about closer integration of the Marines within the Navy – a move resisted by Major General Holmes. The complaint in Major General Holmes’ text to a friend that ‘too much is about appearance’ was said to refer to jibes about his height – he was 5ft 2in, according to media reports.
But he was well-liked by Marines and enjoyed their company. He served in all Britain’s recent conflicts and won a Distinguished Service Order for commanding troops under fire. Sir Tony will take over as Chief of Defence Staff from Army General Sir Nick Carter on November 30. Boris Johnson was said to have ‘gone with his gut’ when he appointed the state-school educated officer from Oldham – dubbed the ‘Red Wall military chief’.
The admiral was described yesterday as an ‘outstanding military leader’ and, as head of the Navy, has been credited with deploying more naval personnel on the frontline and more ships at sea.
He is being replaced as First Sea Lord by Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, who led the UK’s airlift of British citizens and Afghans from Kabul after the Taliban takeover.
Last night a Navy spokesman said: ‘Our condolences, prayers and deepest sympathy are with Matt’s family. Their loss is the greatest and most painful. The entire naval service will be there for them now and always.’
Major General Holmes’s family declined to comment.
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