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Durham First

Alumni in the Armed Forces

Many Durham graduates go on to have successful careers in the armed forces. Durham First finds out more about two such alumni who have become two of the country's top military leaders: General Sir Richard Dannatt and Vice Admiral Tim Laurence
General Richard Dannatt

Name: Richard Dannatt (now General Sir Richard Dannatt KCB CBE MC - if you want it in full!)
College: Hatfield College
Subject: Economic History
Years: 1973-76

1. How did Durham help prepare you for a career in the armed forces?
By the time I came to Durham I had been in the army for just over four years so I had had a few experiences before walking through the gates of Hatfield College. Durham therefore for me was a chance to try to put life into a different perspective.

2.What memories do you have of your time at Durham?
My best memories of Durham are people and friends - in fact like so many I married my best friend the year after we graduated. Pippa (St Mary's) and I have four children, one of whom, Bertie, was Captain of Rugby at Hatfield a few years ago, and my youngest, Richenda, starts at Hatfield this October. To really cement the link with Hatfield I was delighted to become a Fellow of the College last year.

3.What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Becoming Chief of the General Staff in 2006, and therefore being professional head of the Army. But there have been many highlights along the way; playing some role in ending the Bosnian War in 1995/96, being Commander British Troops as we entered Kosovo in 1999 and having the privilege to work with such dedicated, committed and courageous people such as you find in the Army now are but three such highlights.

4.What do you believe are the key agenda items for the armed forces today?
For us to be successful in our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq the main effort now is to stabilise that country and return it to Iraqi control. In Afghanistan the broad objective is similar but there are key differences: we are there at the invitation of the Kabul Government, we cannot afford to see that country becoming ungoverned space or a base for AQ again. This will take time, political and diplomatic commitment and financial resources. While the Army is occupied on these operations we need to ensure that the welfare of soldiers and their families is properly looked after - and that soldiers feel valued and appreciated for what they do by not just the Government but by the Nation at large.

Vice Admiral Tim Laurence

Name: Vice Admiral Tim Laurence
College: University College
Subject: Geography
Years: 1973-76

1. How did Durham help prepare you for a career in the armed forces?
Any degree course trains the mind to research, analyse and question - all these are as vital in the armed forces as in other careers. I would also pick out contributing to the governance of my College and working on Palatinate as useful formative experiences.

2.What memories do you have of your time at Durham?
All happy ones - is this the rose-tinted spectacle effect? Living in a majestic historic city, and for a time in the Castle itself. The wonderful Durham ladies who cooked and cleaned for us in College. Single sculling on the river on a summer evening. The friendships - a surprising number of which have endured over 30 years. Too much table football.

3.What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I love challenges; each new post in the Navy has in some respects been both a challenge and a highlight. It has never been boring. Commanding a warship is a unique and unforgettable experience and I have been lucky enough to command four. My present post as Chief Executive of the organisation managing all of Defence land and property in UK and overseas is probably my greatest challenge - so far.

4.What do you believe are the key agenda items for the armed forces today?
How to hand over further responsibility to the Iraqi security forces. Controlling the security situation in Afghanistan so that vital development work can continue, the political situation can stabilise and the drugs problem can be properly tackled. Providing greater stability and less family separation for our immensely courageous service personnel. Overcoming decades of neglect of our infrastructure, in particular improving the standard of service accommodation - that's my job!