Lieutenant General Riley joined the Army in 1973 and was commissioned the following year. On operations, General Riley has served six tours in Northern Ireland, one in Central America, five in the Balkans, one in Sierra Leone, two years in Iraq and one-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. He has commanded on operations in every rank, including being Commanding Officer, 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers in Goražde during 1995; Commander 1 Mechanized Brigade in Bosnia in 1998, Deputy Commanding General Multi-National Division (South-West) in Bosnia, 1998 – 1999; Deputy Commanding General, Coalition Military Advisory and Training Team, Iraq, 2003 – 2004; Commanding General, Multi-National Division (South-East) and General Officer Commanding British Forces Iraq, 2004 – 2005; and Deputy Commanding General of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, 2007 – 2009. He is one of a small number of British Officers to have commanded a tri-service Joint Task Force, which he did in Sierra Leone in 2000-2001. He taught at Sandhurst from 1984-1986, attended the Staff College Camberley as a student in 1987, and taught there in 1993. He was the Deputy Commandant of the Staff College, responsible for the Higher Command and Staff Course – the senior course in the college – as well as all courses for Army students, from 2001 – 2003. He has been Chief of Staff of an armoured brigade and an armoured division. He became Senior British Military Adviser to United States Central Command in August 2005. He was Director-General and Master of the Armouries from June 2009 until November 2012.
Lieutenant General Riley holds the degrees of BA (Geomorphology) from University College London; MA (History) from the University of Leeds; PhD (Modern History) from Cranfield University. He is a visiting professor in War Studies at King’s College London, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History; he was the external examiner in defence leadership and military technology at Cranfield University from 2009 to 2014; a Trustee of the Royal United Services Institute from 2009 to 2014; is the Chairman of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum Trust and a patron of the Military Preparation College Trust. He currently sits on two bodies advising the Welsh Government on matters related to the commemoration of the Great War.
Lieutenant-General Riley has published twenty-three books of military history and biography. In addition, he has contributed articles to a number of periodicals and compilations; most recently he co-wrote a paper on British Defence Spending, published by Veterans for Britain. He is a frequent public speaker on subjects ranging from history to strategy, defence, security and international affairs. He teaches and mentors in NATO, British and US military schools and colleges.
Military history from the 17th Century to modern times. In particular the post-Restoration Army, the Napoleonic Wars, the Great War, the Second World War and campaigns since 1945.
- MA in Strategy at KCL
- Naval Division, JSCSC
- US Army Europe and US Army Africa, programmes
- 'Ghosts of Old Companions'. Lloyd George's Welsh Army, the Kaiser's Richsheer and the battle for Mametz Wood, 1914 - 1916 (2019)
- Oft in Danger. The Life and Campaigns of General Tony Farrar-Hockley (2016)
- The First Colonial Soldiers. A survey of early British Colonies and their Garrisons, 1650 - 1714 (2014, in three volumes)
- The Last Ironsides. The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662 - 1668 (2013, 3 editions)
- Napoleon as a General (2007, 2 editions)
- [ed] Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, Up to Mametz . . . and Beyond (Pen & Sword, 2010; new edition 2019)
- A Matter of Honour: The Life, Campaigns and Generalship of Isaac Brock (Robin Brass Studios, Canada 2011; revised edition 2012)
- ‘From the Age of Reason to the Nation State (1750 – 1850) in What is Winning? (army Headquarters, 2020)
- Winning in the Cold War and the Nuclear Age, 1945 – 1990 in What is Winning? (army Headquarters, 2020)
- ‘NATO Operations in Afghanistan 2008 – 2009, A Theatre-Level View’ in Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan [ed], British Generals in Blair’s Wars (Ashgate, UK and USA, 2013)‘North Russia 1918 – 1919’, in The British Army First World War Battlefield Guide: Volume 2, The Forgotten Fronts (Army Headquarters, 2016)‘Turkey, the Trans-Caucasus and South Russia’, in The British Army First World War Battlefield Guide: Volume 2, The Forgotten Fronts (Army HQ, 2016)
- Law on Operations (RUSI, 2006)
- Information Operations (RUSI, 2007)
- ‘The Military Garrisons of Henry IV and Henry V at Strata Florida, 1407 and 1415 – 1416’ in Welsh History Review (December 2015)
- ‘The Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Great Christmas Truce, 1914’ in Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (Vol 22, 2016)
- ‘Everyman’s Land. The Second Christmas Truce, 1915’ in Welsh History Review (December 2017)
- The EU and Defence, Brexit Central 2019
- The State of Brexit – Defence, Briefings for Brexit, 2020