Decorated general forced out of Army after lying about relationship with female subordinate

A decorated two-star general has been forced to leave the British Army after being found guilty of lying about his relationship with a female subordinate, The Telegraph has learned.

Major-General Chris Bell, 48, is the most senior officer to have been directed by the Army Board to resign his commission in more than a decade, it is understood.

He is in the process of departing the service and has already stepped down from his position as General Officer Commanding Army Recruitment and Initial Training Command, for which he earned a six-figure salary.

The episode that ended his military career began in 2019 when he held the rank of Brigadier and commanded 77 Brigade, a secretive Army unit that focuses on information warfare. 

During that year he was questioned about his relationship with a female reservist Captain in the unit, a subordinate under his command, as part of an investigation into another matter.

The Army Board recently re-examined his evidence and ruled that he had lied about the nature of his relationship with the woman.

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, chief of the general staff, summoned him for a meeting in full military dress at the Army’s headquarters in Andover before Christmas and informed him of the Army Board’s ruling that he must step down, it is understood.

Major-General Bell, who is married, said on Wednesday that his connection with his former female subordinate had been “emotional” and involved exchanging text messages, but denied there was a physical dimension, according to an Army source.

He also strongly denied rumours swirling in the ranks that he is the father of the woman’s child and signalled he would be willing to prove it with a paternity test, the Army source said.

The source added that Major-General Bell said he attended the child’s christening but had declined an invitation to be a godfather.

The woman is no longer serving as a reservist in the Army and left of her own volition.

The general’s exit marks the end of a high-flying career in the Armed Forces. He was first commissioned into the Scots Guards and went on to become commanding officer of 1st Battalion Scots Guards in 2010.

He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service for his services in Iraq in October 2003. He was appointed OBE for his services in Afghanistan in July 2008, and advanced to CBE in the 2020 New Year Honours list.

Major-General Sharon Nesmith, the most senior female soldier in the service, has been named his replacement as the Army’s recruitment chief.

An Army insider told The Telegraph: “Everyone is thrilled General Sharon has got this appointment, but a dark undercurrent to the story has emerged.

“Everyone has said, ‘This is really not great.’ Some of the more junior members of the establishment are looking upwards and saying, ‘What’s going on here?.”

It comes after another two-star general in the British Army was last summer accused of cheating during the coronavirus lockdown.

Major General Rupert Jones, the son of Falklands War hero Colonel H Jones, admitted having an extra marital affair, according to reports. 

His LinkedIn profile states that he is “leaving the British Army in 2021 and preparing for a second career". However, he has not been directed to resign his commission, it is understood. 

Meanwhile, a retired two-star general is currently facing court martial over allegations he illegally claimed money to send one of his children to private school.

Major General Nick Welch, 57, who was second in command of British and US troops in Afghanistan, left the Army in 2018. He is fully contesting the legal action.

He is the most senior officer to face a court martial since 1815, when a lieutenant general was convicted of abandoning his siege guns in the Napoleonic Wars.

The authorities have struggled to find enough high ranking officers to hear his case, prompting the appointment of civilian civil servants to the panel to be considered.

Court martial protocol insists the president of the panel is at least two ranks higher than the defendant, requiring a full general for this case. There are only four full generals currently serving, including the head of the Army, General Sir Mark. 

Other branches of the Armed Forces have seen senior officers depart under a cloud in recent years.

Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In 2019, Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest (above, left) resigned from the Royal Navy after he was stripped of his command of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the jewel of the fleet.

He was removed from the ship over claims he misused its official car, allegedly treating the Ford Galaxy “as though it were his own” and using it for personal travel.

An Army spokesman said: “Major-General Chris Bell has retired from the Army.

“We are not prepared to release any personal information about this individual. We have a duty under both common law and statute to protect the personal information of all those who serve or have served in the Army.”

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