REPORT

Will the real Earl please stand up?

By Ned Donovan

Meet Robert Ardis, or Colonel The Rt Hon Robert Edward Kerr–Ardis, The Earl Ardis, Viscount Wexford, Baron Elmbridge as he is to his friends. Ardis is deputy chairman of Falkirk Conservative and Unionist Association.

He is also, it is alleged, a “Walter Mitty”-esque impostor who has used a string of fake titles and bogus military uniforms to insinuate his way into local government positions and onto the boards of other organisations.

Ardis has been allegedly passing himself off not only as a peer but as an Army officer too, The Kernel has learned.

A CV sent to a nonprofit organisation and shown to The Kernel describes 28-year-old Ardis as a former “Field Officer at HM Armed Forces” who was “deployed for peace keeping and NATO purposes to North Africa, Belize, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Chechnya”.

Such a career would require Ardis to hold a commissioned rank in one of the military branches. He has no such position, according to The London Gazette.

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An eagle-eyed interlocutor contacted by The Kernel, who met Ardis at a dinner, said he came “in full mess dress in the rank of a Colonel (which he mispronounced). His uniform didn’t add up, nor his medals or stories.”

The wearing of a military uniform with the intent to deceive is an offence in the UK.

Mr Ardis apparently used his CV to get onto the committee of the supper’s host organisation, which we are declining to name. Along with the document, the  Baron Elmbridge added that “for various reasons I am under Specialist Protection (SO1)” and that he would have to be “in control of all publications that are consisting my name [sic] in any form or places”.

There is speculation that Ardis uses the excuse of “security protection” to cover up the absence of any verifiable titles or ranks. The Kernel contacted the College of Arms in London, the body responsible for recording all peerages. David White, the Somerset Herald, told us Ardis’s claimed titles and excuses were “nonsense”.

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The College of Arms later told The Kernel: “There has never been a British peerage title of Elmbridge, nor has a family of that name ever held a British peerage.”

“However,” the College added, “Lord Elmbridge is a fictional character in the novel Mrs Wilberforce: or the Widow and her Orphans (London, 1838).”

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Ardis is Deputy Chairman of his local Conservative Association in Scotland. He stood as a candidate for Council elections in 2012 (he lost). The Kernel was sent two copies of business cards by a Scottish Conservative source, which Mr Ardis is alleged to have been handing out, that describe him both as Mr Kerr-Ardis and as “The Lord Elmbridge”.

When contacted for comment, the Scottish Conservative Party told us that the matter would be investigated “as a matter of urgency”.

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In the past few days, Robert Ardis has changed his name on Facebook twice. When The Kernel first discovered him online, he was listed as Robert Edward Kerr Ardis – Baron Elmbridge, then it was Robert D’Ardis, and today it was Robert Kerr Ardis – all in the past 24 hours. He also threatened one group with libel action yesterday after the group cut ties with him.

In the CV that mentions his military service, Mr Ardis also describes himself as an advisor to various government departments – including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. The Kernel contacted the MoD, but as of today they have not replied to our request for comment.

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In the age of the internet, it is increasingly rare to discover what the military community calls “Walts”, named after Walter Mitty, the fictional vivid fantasist, because they tend to be uncovered quickly.

There is an entire community on the Army Rumour Service forum (ARRSE) dedicated to rooting these Walts out of the woodwork.

When contacted by The Kernel, Ardis admitted that he has now stepped down from his public roles. He now claims that he was an officer in the Foreign Legion.

He admits he has never been a Goverment advisor and claims that inconsistencies in the stylings of his titles are due to his Google, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts being “hacked and information listed there tinkered with”.

He told The Kernel this morning that his enemies hacked and changed his online social media profiles “for purely political reasons”. He also appears to have deleted his Twitter account this morning.