Boris Johnson led tributes from across the military to the former head of the Royal Marines who was found dead on Saturday at the age of 54.
The prime minister said he was “very saddened” to learn of the sudden death of Maj Gen Matthew Holmes, who had led the Marines until his replacement in a reorganisation early this year.
Holmes had been commandant general of the marines from 2019 until April this year and had previously served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, during a career of more than 30 years in the armed forces.
“My thoughts are with Matt’s family and friends at this difficult time, as well as the Royal Marines and Royal Navy who I know will feel this loss keenly,” Johnson said.
Investigations continue into the circumstances of Holmes’s death, the Ministry of Defence said. But defence sources said it was understood he had killed himself. There had been a period of personal difficulties, hulle het gesê.
Holmes’s sudden death has rocked colleagues in the military. The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said on Monday that “we mourn the tragic loss of one of our own” – and praised Holmes for serving with “distinction and rigour”.
Adm Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the Royal Navy, gesê: “Matt was also a dear friend to many, and a close friend of mine for over 20 jare. He will be sorely missed by the service and especially the corps family.”
Holmes had been moved out from his position as head of the marines after a reorganisation, having served a little over a year-and-a-half in what is normally considered a three-year posting.
He had resisted the move, defence sources said, and this was reported earlier this year. But Radakin pressed on with the change, part of his wider transformation plan for the Royal Navy.
Holmes was replaced by Lt Gen Rob Magowan and was allowed to stay on for six months, acting as an adviser, to help with the transition out of service.
Radakin is one of the leading two candidates to replace Gen Sir Nick Carter as head of the armed forces, after Johnson completed interviews for the job last week. An appointment had been expected late last week, but that has been delayed until after the Conservative party conference.
Some defence sources believe Radakin is Johnson’s favoured candidate after the final round of interviews, although there is strong support from elsewhere in the military for Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of strategic command, responsible for both special forces and cyber operations.
The appointment is made by Downing Street from a field of five after a recommendation from Wallace.
The MoD said its “thoughts, sympathies and deepest heartfelt condolences were with family and friends of Maj Gen Holmes”. A spokesman requested that their privacy was respected.