This is not intended to capture all conflicts and military operations since 1952, nor is it intended to be a history lesson on the conflicts of recent military operations. But it is intended to highlight the fact that the British forces have been busy almost every year.
Lasting from 1948 until 1960, the Malayan emergency was a period of unrest following the creation of the Federation of Malaya after World War II. British forces were used to suppress the uprising led by rebels of the largely Chinese Communist Party of Malaya. Its policy of relocating rural Chinese into “New villages” proved especially unpopular. Later, after addressing political grievances, the uprising petered out.
Korean War 1950-53
Britain responded to the United Nations’ call to send military assistance to the Republic of Korea following an invasion across the 38th parallel by the North Korean People’s Army. After initial battlefield successes, the North Koreans were beaten back by a multi-national force to the area of the 38th parallel despite assistance from China. Some 100,000 British men and women served in the region during the conflict.
In 1950, the Mau Mau, an African nationalist movement, was banned by British authorities. Two years later, following growing unrest and a campaign of sabotage and assassination, the British Kenya government declared a state of emergency and began four years of military operations against the rebels. Thousands of rebels were killed but ultimately the uprising led to Kenya’s independence.
Having withdrawn from Egypt, Cyprus became Britain’s new location for its Middle East HQ. A campaign to gain independence for Cyprus and unite the island with Greece was launched against the British presence which had begun in 1923 in the aftermath of World War I.
Suez Crisis 1956
British forces approaching Port Said having colluded with Israel to attack Egypt to provide an excuse for intervening, Britain, allied with France, mounted a military campaign to seize control of the Suez Canal after Egypt’s ruler, President Nasser, nationalised the key waterway. The combined forces soon defeated the Egyptians but the venture sparked a major international crisis and Britain, France and Israel were all soon forced to remove their troops.
Oman and Dhofar 1962-75
Opposition to the oppressive rule by the Sultan of Oman led to the emergence of a rebellion in the Dhofar region. British forces trained and advised the Sultan’s military in combating the uprising which received help from China and the Soviet Union. The rebellion was finally crushed in 1975 through a combination of Jordanian and Iranian troops, British equipment and personnel with financial backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
British forces were involved in what amounted to an undeclared war between Indonesia and Malaysia, the latter backed by the British government.
Indonesian nationalists, keen to see the unification of the island’s territories, backed rebels who launched raids along the border between Indonesia and Malaya-controlled Borneo.
Aden Emergency 1963-67
British troops faced two rebel groups in Aden the name for the insurgency against British rule that was mounted by two rival nationalist groups vying for control of the country following Britain’s promised departure. British forces withdrew abruptly at the end of the conflict, paving the way for the creation of Southern Yemen, now merged with the north to form modern-day Yemen.
Northern Ireland 1969-2008
in 1969 tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities spilled over into violence, prompting the government to order troops onto the streets of Northern Ireland in 1969. Direct rule was imposed in 1972 as the violence escalated. Paramilitary groups became increasingly deadly and the violence spread to mainland Britain. More than 3,600 people, most of them civilians, died during the troubles.
Falkland Islands 1982
Wrangling between the UK and Argentina over the islands began in the 19th century and rumbled on into the 20th century. After months of sabre-rattling, Argentina’s military rulers ordered troops to invade on 2 April 1982. Britain dispatched a joint military force to eject them. The Argentine garrison commander in Port Stanley surrendered on 14 June. The fighting cost the lives of 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen. Diplomatic relations in were restored in 1990, but Argentina maintains its claim to the islands it calls Las Malvinas.
Gulf War I 1990-91
Iraq invaded the oil-rich state of Kuwait in August 1990, prompting what became known as the First Gulf War. US-led coalition forces were sent to the region and in January 1991 launched Operation Desert Storm – a sustained aerial bombardment involving cruise missiles launched from US warships and US, British and Saudi Arabian fighter planes, bombers and helicopters. Four days after the Allied land offensive began on 24 February, US President George Bush declared victory. Kuwait was liberated but Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq.
The Balkans 1992 – 2001
British forces were deployed to the former Yugoslavia as part of the United Nations Peace Force. As bitter civil war engulfed much of Bosnia, British troops were caught in the crossfire keeping the sides apart. Later, as the war spread to Kosovo, British forces suffered casualties both during and after NATO’s air campaign which forced Serb troops out of the Albanian-majority province.
Sierra Leone 2000
About 1,000 British were sent to Sierra Leone to help with the evacuation of foreign nationals. But they went on to provide logistical support to the beleaguered UN operation, and training for government forces. British troops launched a rescue mission in September 2000 after a renegade militia group threatened to kill six British soldiers being held hostage in a remote jungle stronghold. Some 12 soldiers were injured in the operation and one was killed.
US and British forces launched their “shock and awe” bombardment of Baghdad in March 2003 as coalition ground forces moved in to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Iraqi forces resisted until 9 April and Saddam fled but was later captured, tried and hanged. After the war, British troops were mainly based in the southern city of Basra to maintain security and help train the new Iraqi forces. The UK’s combat role in Iraq was declared complete in April 2009 and combat troops withdrew.
Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in the US, the UK joined US-led forces in the so-called “War on terror” – with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as the principal target. The Royal Navy and RAF launched missile strikes against the Taleban and al-Qaeda bases in October. Royal Marine commandos were sent in a month later. Since the fall of the Taleban, the UK has played a major role as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to establish and maintain security and train Afghan forces.