A Major general has today become the most senior officer to be convicted at a court martial in over 200 years for cheating taxpayers out of nearly £50,000 in private school fees.
Major General Nick Welch has been jailed at Bulford Military Court for 21 months after he was convicted of fraud by falsely claiming more than £48,000 in allowance to pay for his children’s boarding school fees.
The 57-year-old had claimed he and his wife Charlotte, 54, were living in Putney, South-West London while he served as Assistant Chief of the General Staff in Whitehall.
Welch, who earned a ‘lofty’ £120,000-a-year salary, used the military’s ‘Continuity of Education Allowance’ to put two of his children through two private schools in Dorset.
Mrs Welch, a freelance consultant, in fact spent the majority of her time at the family’s £800,000 country home in Blandford Forum, Dorset, Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard.
Judge Advocate General Alan Large and a panel of senior officers also sentenced Welch, who left the military in 2018, to retrospective dismissal from the Army which means he can no longer benefit from his rank of retired major general.
He was also ordered to pay back the fraudulently claimed money.
Major General Nick Welch has been jailed at Bulford Military Court for 21 months
Major General Nick Welch falsely claimed £48,000 to pay for his children’s boarding schools
Welch was caught after an anonymous tip from neighbours claimed he and his wife were never at their London address.
The complaint was dismissed at the time by Mrs Welch as the actions of a jealous spouse.
‘Perhaps they are daunted by Nick’s rank, all of their husbands are two or three ranks below,’ Mrs Welch wrote in a text message to a friend.
The verdict means Welch, who was previously awarded the OBE, is the most senior officer to be found guilty at a court martial since Lt Gen John Murray in 1815.
Lt Gen Murray was hauled before a military court in Winchester accused abandoning 18 siege guns during the siege of Tarragona in 1813.
He was found guilty of a single charge ‘that he unnecessarily abandoned a considerable quantity of artillery and stores’, and admonished by the court.
The court martial panel took five hours to find Welch guilty of a single count of fraud yesterday. He stood stony faced and showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered.
The four-week trial heard that Welch lied about how much time he and his wife spent at their Dorset home, just 15 minutes’ drive from his children’s schools.
He claimed £48,388 between December 2015 and February 2017 to put them through the £37,000-a-year Clayesmore School and £22,500-a-year Hanford School.
After Colonel Jeremy Lamb complained to the Army, Welch ordered his wife to drive up to London the following morning.
The court heard Mrs Welch promised to put on a show of living at the property and would be ‘out and about and very sociable all week’.
The 57-year-old, pictured in Afghanistan with then-Prime Minister David Cameron, had denied fraud
Maj Gen Nick Welch claimed he thought he satisfied the ‘underlying principles’ of the allowance rules as long as he and Charlotte Welch ‘endeavoured to be together’
Welch said he believed he satisfied the ‘underlying principles’ and ‘spirit’ of the Continuity of Education Allowance rules as long as he and his wife ‘endeavoured to be together’.
Mrs Welch was said to only spend around one in three days at the residence in Putney.
The Continuity of Education Allowance is offered by the Ministry of Defence to help fund 90 per cent of the education of military families’ children when they relocate on assignment, as long as their spouses live with them, a practice known as ‘serving accompanied’.
Welch (pictured in 2014), told the hearing that his understanding of the rules was that his wife had to be staying where he was staying in order to comply with the definition of accompanied service
Prosecutor Sarah Clarke told the court that Welch used his rank to deceive the Army as ‘who is going to question the word of a Major General?’
Several former high ranking Army officers were called on to give evidence in praise of Welch’s character during the court martial, including General Sir Richard Barrons, former Commander of Britain’s Joint Forces Command.
Welch retired a two star general in 2019, having served in Afghanistan, Germany, Northern Ireland and Belize.
He has since taken a post as chief operating officer of Bournemouth Arts University.