General Richards served as Commander of the International Stabilisation and Assistance Force in Afghanistan between May 2006 and February 2007. In January 2008 he took over as Commander-in-Chief of UK Land Forces before assuming the appointment of Chief of the General Staff today.
General Richards' first act on taking up his appointment was to thank his predecessor:
"I wish to thank General Sir Richard Dannatt for his leadership, dedication and courage as Chief of the General Staff and, more broadly, for his long and distinguished 40-year career.
"I am conscious that I have a hard act to follow but I look forward to building on his legacy."
General Richards then went on to outline his approach to his new role:
"As part of the Defence team, I will continue to focus on what is needed to meet the Government's aims in Afghanistan and the region, and ensuring the Army achieves the tasks laid upon it.
"The Army's most valuable assets are its people: it is essential that we continue to look after our soldiers and their families, especially those injured or affected adversely through conflict.
"Looking to the longer term, I will be focusing on making sure that the Army is geared up for future conflict as it evolves in this highly interdependent and globalised era."
General Dannatt, who handed over his post as professional head of the British Army at 1200hrs today, will, on his retirement, become the 159th Constable of the Tower of London, a ceremonial role dating back to the eleventh century.
In Whitehall today, members of the Army working in the Ministry of Defence gathered to give General Dannatt the traditional send-off, both from the Ministry and from the Army, and he took the chance to thank them and the whole of the Army for their efforts.
In a farewell message, General Dannatt paid tribute to the young men and women of the Army who continue to put themselves in harm's way on behalf of the nation:
"It has been a tremendous honour and privilege and a deeply humbling experience to lead you all for the past few years - you are truly outstanding people.
"As I march into the military sunset I do so confident that the Army's determination, professionalism and reputation remains where it should be; second-to-none."