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Sir Andrew Ridgway KBE, CB, KStJ, DL

by | May 20, 2022 | People, Decorated Villagers

In this, the Platinum Jubilee year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Bishopsteignton Heritage has prepared a series of articles featuring members of the village community who have, at various times, been honoured by Her Majesty for services to the nation or the community.

The first of our series features a Knight of the Realm who lives and works in our midst, Sir Andrew Ridgway. Since his youth Sir Andrew has served the nation and received many awards along the way. He bought a residence in the parish in 2010 and he and his wife have lived here since 2011. Read his story here:

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Margaret

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Margaret

The first honour that was awarded to Sir Andrew Ridgway was when he passed out of Sandhurst at the age of twenty.  He passed out first in the Order of Merit and was awarded the Queen’s Medal. It was presented to him on the Sovereign’s Parade by HRH Princess Margaret.

The first honour that was awarded to Sir Andrew Ridgway was when he passed out of Sandhurst at the age of twenty.  He passed out first in the Order of Merit and was awarded the Queen’s Medal. It was presented to him on the Sovereign’s Parade by HRH Princess Margaret.

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Margaret

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Margaret

Whilst serving in Germany later in his Army life the Queen’s Medal was stolen from his home in a burglary. Having contacted the Palace he was told that it could not normally be replaced but, because he was on deployment abroad at the time of the theft, the powers that be decided that it could be. Then they pointed out that when Andrew got his they were solid gold, and now they are silver gilt, and would he like to have his in solid gold again. He said yes please!

Sir Andrew Ridgway Queen's Medal

Queen’s Medal

Andrew Ridgway Investiture

Andrew Ridgeway investiture with Queen Elizabeth II

His next award came when he was serving as a Brigadier commanding the Seventh Armoured Brigade, known as the ‘Desert Rats’ and he had been with them in Bosnia commanding the UN Forces. When he came back from that tour, he was awarded the CBE, Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996. Sir Andrew remembers:

“Normally you went to the palace to receive the award from Her Majesty, but on this occasion, I was invited to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, because it was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations. There was a huge UN ceremony with people from all over the world, and the entire royal family. 

They thought that they would get a few of the officers who had just been awarded honours for UN duties, about a dozen of us, and Her Majesty presented us with our medals. It was an excellent ceremony but it was almost a disaster! We had to walk up all the steep steps to where the Queen was sitting with Prince Philip, and all the other members of the royal family, to receive our medals. As I came down the steps, backwards, one of my spurs came off. What you are told to do if anything like this goes wrong is to ignore it and carry on. Luckily one of the ushers spotted it. I was afraid Her Majesty would come down the steps at the end of the ceremony and stand on the spur and sprain her ankle or something, but the usher slipped in and picked it up and gave it to me, so disaster was avoided.”

Following the lavish Ceremony, they went on to Buckingham Palace for a reception.

His next award came when he was serving as a Brigadier commanding the Seventh Armoured Brigade, known as the ‘Desert Rats’ and he had been with them in Bosnia commanding the UN Forces. When he came back from that tour, he was awarded the CBE, Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996. Sir Andrew remembers:

“Normally you went to the palace to receive the award from Her Majesty, but on this occasion, I was invited to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament, because it was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations. There was a huge UN ceremony with people from all over the world, and the entire royal family. They thought that they would get a few of the officers who had just been awarded honours for UN duties, about a dozen of us, and Her Majesty presented us with our medals. It was an excellent ceremony but it was almost a disaster! We had to walk up all the steep steps to where the Queen was sitting with Prince Philip, and all the other members of the royal family, to receive our medals. As I came down the steps, backwards, one of my spurs came off. What you are told to do if anything like this goes wrong is to ignore it and carry on. Luckily one of the ushers spotted it. I was afraid Her Majesty would come down the steps at the end of the ceremony and stand on the spur and sprain her ankle or something, but the usher slipped in and picked it up and gave it to me, so disaster was avoided.”

Following the lavish Ceremony, they went on to Buckingham Palace for a reception.

Andrew Ridgway Investiture

Andrew Ridgeway investiture with Queen Elizabeth II

Five years later Sir Andrew was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, a much more senior honour than the CBE. He had been the Chief of staff of the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps, a NATO Corps with all different countries. They went into the Balkans and planned and conducted the invasion of Kosovo, drove out the Serbs and brought the Albanians back in.

“I was Chief of Staff of KFOR, NATO’s Kosovo Force. We came back from there and the award came in the New Year’s Honours List. There was a tap on the door the day before the publication of the New Year Honours List. With military honours, the recipients don’t have to be asked if they will accept the award because it is presumed that they will accept. If it is a civilian award, they have to be asked in advance to make sure that they are going to accept the award.”

The Order of the Bath comes with special privileges such as, you can have your children christened in Westminster Abbey or get married there.

Sir Andrew Ridgway Order of St John

Order of St John’s

Sir Andrew Ridgway Medal 'The Order of The Bath'

‘The Order of The Bath’ medal

 

 

“Then I left the army, and in those days, when you were a Lieutenant General, the equivalent of a three-star General, you automatically got a Knighthood. It had been like that for generations, but they changed the rules and I was one of the first Generals not to be knighted. Under the new rules you only got it if you did something extra, which I totally agree with, no one should get an honour just for doing their job.”

“Then I left the army, and in those days, when you were a Lieutenant General, the equivalent of a three-star General, you automatically got a Knighthood. It had been like that for generations, but they changed the rules and I was one of the first Generals not to be knighted. Under the new rules you only got it if you did something extra, which I totally agree with, no one should get an honour just for doing their job.”

Sir Andrew Ridgway Medal 'The Order of The Bath'

‘The Order of The Bath’ medal

Sir Andrew was then appointed to be the Governor of Jersey in 2006, where he served until 2011. Whilst there he did a great deal of work with the Order of St. John, whose origins were in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem. He was subsequently appointed a Knight of the Order of St John.

“You didn’t become Sir or anything but it was a very nice award to have.”

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Anne

Sir Andrew Ridgway with HRM Princess Anne

Sir Andrew Ridgway investiture at Buckingham Palace

Sir Andrew Ridgway investiture at Buckingham Palace

In 2011, as his period of service in Jersey came towards its end, and another honour came his way. During their final weeks in Jersey, the Princess Royal was there with them as she used to come and stay with them every year. After she left, he showed his wife Valerie the letter he had been sitting on all day announcing that he had been appointed to be a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Sir Andrew remembers;

“For me this particular honour was especially important because it is the only one where your wife is recognised as well. So I became Sir and Valerie became Lady. It was important because while I was off earning the other honours, away with the army, there was also a great deal of work happening behind the scenes. When I was in Bosnia for instance, where I lost quite a few men, Valerie had to look after the families. There were thousands of families left behind in Germany, and Valerie set up a centre for them to go to. Always a terrific amount of work was done by the wives but with little recognition.

When we were in Kosovo it was even more demanding because the families were from all over the NATO countries, very few of them spoke English. So for Valerie to be recognised, albeit rather late, was wonderful and went down very well in Jersey.”

In Jersey the night before the Queens official Birthday every year they used to hold a big reception at Government House, and they invited every single person in the island for drinks. Over 100,000!

“Thankfully only about 3,000 turned up, but we never knew quite how many would actually come.”

Bands played, canons fired and all sorts of entertainment was laid on, and at the end of the evening Andrew would make a speech and announce who from the island was getting an honour the next day. A couple of years before they left he announced during his speech that their eldest son, who was in Afghanistan at the time, had been awarded the MBE, so on this final occasion, he went through the list of everyone from the Island who was getting a Birthday Honour and then announced an extra one – himself!

In 2011, as his period of service in Jersey came towards its end, and another honour came his way. During their final weeks in Jersey, the Princess Royal was there with them as she used to come and stay with them every year. After she left, he showed his wife Valerie the letter he had been sitting on all day announcing that he had been appointed to be a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Sir Andrew remembers;

“For me this particular honour was especially important because it is the only one where your wife is recognised as well. So I became Sir and Valerie became Lady. It was important because while I was off earning the other honours, away with the army, there was also a great deal of work happening behind the scenes. When I was in Bosnia for instance, where I lost quite a few men, Valerie had to look after the families. There were thousands of families left behind in Germany, and Valerie set up a centre for them to go to. Always a terrific amount of work was done by the wives but with little recognition.

When we were in Kosovo it was even more demanding because the families were from all over the NATO countries, very few of them spoke English. So for Valerie to be recognised, albeit rather late, was wonderful and went down very well in Jersey.”

In Jersey the night before the Queens official Birthday every year they used to hold a big reception at Government House, and they invited every single person in the island for drinks. Over 100,000!

“Thankfully only about 3,000 turned up, but we never knew quite how many would actually come.”

Bands played, canons fired and all sorts of entertainment was laid on, and at the end of the evening Andrew would make a speech and announce who from the island was getting an honour the next day. A couple of years before they left he announced during his speech that their eldest son, who was in Afghanistan at the time, had been awarded the MBE, so on this final occasion, he went through the list of everyone from the Island who was getting a Birthday Honour and then announced an extra one – himself!

Sir Andrew Ridgway investiture at Buckingham Palace

Sir Andrew Ridgway investiture at Buckingham Palace

This final honour was received from Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Not that Sir Andrew was any stranger to the Palace. They regularly visited for meetings and garden parties and they got to know most of the Royal Family quite well. He was even invited to Prince William’s wedding. Unfortunately, Lady Valerie could not attend as William had so many guests to invite, most of the spouses of other dignitaries had to be left off the list. However, after the wedding a piece of the wedding cake came in the post, in a royal tin, a gift from Prince Charles.

 

Sir Andrew is currently serving as Deputy Lieutenant of Devon and is President of SSAFA Devon, Chairman of the Tank Museum in Dorset as well as sitting in London as a member of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission dealing with highly sensitive Immigration cases.

Sir Andrew Ridgway Portrait

Portrait of Sir Andrew Ridgway

Other people featured in the “Decorated Villagers” series coming soon:

Fran Edwards BEM, Bryan Dunsford OBE, Christine Hill MBE and John Wotton OBE.

References