Sandhurst General wins damages for Times 'blubbing' slur

The former commandant of the Sandhurst military academy today accepted a public apology and "substantial" but undisclosed damages over an article on the Times website headlined "Oh do stop blubbing and shut up."

Mr Justice Eady was told at London's High Court this morning that the article in question described Maj Gen Andrew Ritchie (pictured) as "head honcho" at Sandhurst and went on to claim that he had taken early retirement at 52 and that colleagues reported that the stress of looking after Princes Harry and William had "left him fearing for his health."

Today, though, Maj Gen Ritchie's solicitor, Patricia Burge, told the judge: "The allegations concerning Maj Gen Andrew Ritchie which form the basis of the article are untrue and without any foundation. Unfortunately no attempt was made by the defendants to contact either the claimant or indeed Sandhurst before the story was published in order to check upon the accuracy of the story."

She continued : "The actual position is that the claimant has neither quit his job at Sandhurst and nor has he been suffering from stress. The claimant in fact held the post of commandant at Sandhurst for some 40 months, which is the longest period in charge for any commandant for some 20 years."

She said a successor to Maj Gen Ritchie was appointed in January last year in accordance with the normal procedure for the planning of the succession of senior positions in the army and he later resigned from the army after being head-hunted for the position as Director of Goodenough College.

"His reasons for leaving the army have absolutely nothing to do with stress, or to do with either of the two princes," said Ms Burge.

"The claimant is a highly trained soldier who prides himself not unnaturally upon his professionalism. He has been trained to deal with stress and has a proven ability to deal with farm more stressful events than running Sandhurst."

She said Times Newspapers now accepted that the allegations were "false and defamatory", apologised, had agreed to pay damages and the general's legal costs.

Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

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