UK

Ex-Armed Forces head Lord Bramall dies aged 95

Lord Bramall Image copyright PA

Former chief of the Armed Forces Lord Bramall has died at the age of 95.

The Normandy D-Day veteran, who oversaw the Falklands campaign, retired from the House of Lords in 2013.

Lord Bramall was awarded a military cross in 1945 for his bravery during World War Two.

In his later years, he was falsely accused in 2014 of child sexual abuse by the paedophile and fantasist Carl Beech.

He was too ill to attend the trial of Beech in person earlier this year. Beech was later jailed for making the false allegations.

Lord Bramall's wife died in 2015 before detectives announced they were not charging him.

'Inspirational'

A field marshal and baron, Lord Bramall served during the Normandy landings and commanded UK land forces between 1976 and 1978.

He became chief of the general staff - the professional head of the Army - in 1979, and in 1982 he oversaw the Falklands campaign.

Later that year he became chief of the defence staff - the most senior officer commanding the UK's armed forces - and served until 1985.

He went on to have a 26-year career in the House of Lords.

Lord Bramall - known to his family and friends as Dwin, from his first name Edwin - spoke out in the House of Lords against the involvement of the UK in the Iraq war.

During a debate in 2004, he said: "We really should know by now that, unlike naked aggression, terrorism cannot be defeated by massive military means, but by concentrating more on the twin pillars of competent protection and positive diplomacy."

He also spoke out against the UK's nuclear missiles, telling the Lords in 2007 that abandoning Trident "could be seen as a bold and striking decision intended to show that the country is resolved to return to the position of moral and ethical standards for which it was once widely recognised".

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament praised Lord Bramall over his comments.

Also paying tribute was former defence minister Tobias Ellwood, who tweeted that Lord Bramall had been an "inspirational leader".

Ex-defence secretary Lord Heseltine called him an "outstanding soldier", adding: "From his earliest experiences in the liberation of Europe and the D-Day landings, to his distinguished tenure as chief of the defence staff, he was a man who inspired confidence.

"His public humiliation following the scandalous allegations was one of the most disgraceful episodes of my political life.

"The country has lost a great patriot who deserved better from us."

Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who was also wrongly accused by Beech, paid tribute to Lord Bramall and said the country was "poorer for his death".

"He will be remembered as a military leader of enormous stature, courage and ability," Mr Proctor said.

Lord Bramall will be remembered as a war hero, despite the false claims towards the end of his life.

He joined the Army at the age of 18 and took part in the D-Day landings.

In Normandy, he was wounded twice but quickly returned to duty. For his bravery he was awarded the military cross.

He served in Borneo and then west Germany at the height of the Cold War as he rose through the ranks. By the time of the Falklands War he was the head of the Army. He retired in 1985 as a field marshal.

He was still respected as a strategic thinker - warning of the dangers of the Iraq invasion in 2003.

He also questioned the cost of renewing Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system.

His reputation still survived, despite what he called the ridiculous allegations made by a fantasist who wrongly claimed he was part of an establishment paedophile ring.

Paying tribute to Lord Bramall, chief of the defence staff General Sir Nick Carter said his "many admirers" would be "deeply saddened" to hear of his death.

"He was a remarkable soldier who served our country with great bravery and dedication over many decades, inspiring his many subordinates, and overseeing significant change as a chief of staff that we still benefit from today," he said.

Meanwhile, Conservative parliamentary candidate Nigel Evans focused on the impact of the false allegations, tweeting: "I trust more than a few people will hang their heads in shame following this news. He deserved so much better from the police. RIP Lord Bramall."

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said Lord Bramall's last years were "dominated" by Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police's probe into Beech's false claims.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she was "very sad" to learn of his death.

"I met him recently to apologise personally for the great damage the Metropolitan Police investigation into Carl Beech's false allegations has had on him and his family," she said in a statement.

"I was struck by his selflessness and generosity in the issues he wanted to discuss, focusing on a desire to ensure the lessons from Operation Midland had been learnt by the Met.

"It was very humbling to be in his company and hear first-hand his experience.

"He was a great man, a brilliant soldier and leader, and much-loved family man. He was a true gentleman and will be hugely missed."

Lord Bramall, a father-of-two, thumped the desk and called the allegations "ridiculous" when he was questioned by police in 2015.

Footage of his police interview, which happened weeks after his home was raided, was played at Beech's trial.

"I am absolutely astonished, amazed and bemused," Lord Bramall said in that interview.

"I find it incredible that anybody should believe that someone of my career standing, integrity, should be capable of any of these things, including things like torture - unbelievable."