Words Of Remembrance
Lest We Forget.
These powerful words serve as a reminder that those who serve to defend the nation and our way of life are always in our thoughts, as is their sacrifice in our name.
We not only remember and honour those who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars, but those who have served in all wars.
This year, the many of us will not be able to attend Remembrance services due the restrictions in place following the coronavirus pandemic – although some Remembrance Sunday events in England will be allowed to go ahead, Downing Street has said.
Events will be allowed to take place outside as long as social distancing measures are in place.
For those of us who cannot attend an event as usual, we can still pay our respects in our own private way or by sharing our Words of Remembrance online.
Here, we reflect on all those wars and conflicts over time in which British and Commonwealth personnel have given the ultimate sacrifice in defence of the nation.
This article examines those wars and conflicts to act as a reminder of the many times our Armed Forces have put themselves in harm’s way in service to their country.
As we pay our respects, fall silent, bow our heads during this year’s Remembrance – we think of all those, not only in more recent conflicts but those who have lost their lives in moments of war in our history.
We remember the service and sacrifice made by so many, over history and those who serve today.
Join us in taking time to examine where and when our Armed Forces have been called upon over time and remember those who served in those conflicts.
We also include Words of Remembrance from our community – with submissions from people who have sent us thoughts, poems and their own personal reflections of what Remembrance means to them, perhaps who they are remembering, or a reflection on the meaning of an act of remembrance.
On Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day, we will also be posting more of your Words of Remembrance in a live update Memory Wall which will include posts from social media and submissions to us on the day – thoughts, memories, poems, personal stories or reflections on a loved one who is among the fallen.
We Will Remember Them.
Conflicts And The Fallen
There have been many conflicts and operations involving British military personnel since August, 1914 - the start of World War 1. Here, we take a look at those where British troops have lost their lives.
Research for this project has been done with the assistance of Professor Ian Beckett, Honorary Professor of Military History at Rutherford College, the University of Kent. It has also been informed by an MoD report entitled ‘UK armed forces Deaths: Operational deaths post World War II’, which covers the period from September 1945 up until March of this year (2020.)
Figures in the document and this article more generally are inclusive of Gurkhas, as well as others from Commonwealth countries such as Fiji, who have chosen to serve in the British Armed Forces directly. They do not include deaths of troops from the wider British Empire since the empire ceased to exist partway through the period examined here. The only exceptions to this are figures listed for the First Indochina War and the Indonesian War of Independence, for which Wikipedia was referenced. Although the MoD report begins its examination in 1945, it does not include statistics for those killed during these two conflicts.
1. The First World War
(1914 — 1918)
The causes of the First World War are varied, complex and still disputed. Essentially, the stage was set for the conflict by a European continent that was divided against itself and that came to be aligned around two hostile camps: the Central Powers, which consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and the Entente Powers, consisting principally of Great Britain, France and Russia, later also Serbia, Belgium and then Japan.
Imperialism was a major driver of the competition between these two groups, as was the emergence of a unified Germany in 1871 as a major power on the continent. Fear and suspicion of Germany helped drive France and Russia into alliance. Germany had become unified after beating France in a six-week campaign launched in 1870.
For its part, Britain at that point had the world’s largest empire and sought to hold onto it by staying on good terms with its closest imperial rivals, France and Russia. Her fear of Germany increased when its mercurial leader Wilhelm II started a naval arms race with Britain. Uncontested access to the sea was vital to maintaining her empire.
As a recently unified country, Germany meanwhile was envious of its neighbours’ imperial possessions and felt its own imperial ambitions were being constricted. The globe had essentially already been divided into colonies and claimed by the existing imperial powers.
This dynamic of new versus old empires played out across both World Wars. Although both Italy and Japan would end up on the victorious Entente/Allied side in World War 1, they would of course end up allied with Germany in World War 2. Despite being a victor, Italy ended the First World War feeling territorially aggrieved just as Germany did, having not acquired as much territory as it had hoped to in the war. This likewise seems to have been a factor in the emergence of fascism in Italy between the wars. At the start of World War 1, Italy, like Germany, was also a recently unified nation. And Japan too was an emergent power. It had been brought out of isolation and forced into rapid development and competition for the Pacific by hostile US diplomacy in the mid-19th Century.
Germany’s allies Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey on the other hand, the latter of which would take Italy’s place as the third Central Power once the war had started, were both old empires. In fact, the point at which their empires overlapped with Russia’s, in the Balkans, is where World War 1 was actually triggered.
Serbia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but with a strong separatist movement, as well as having Slavic peoples and Muslims that Russia and the Ottoman Turks were protective of.
When a young terrorist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, in Serbia in June 1914, a diplomatic crisis ensued. Russia moved to protect Serbia from Austria-Hungary, while Germany moved to protect Austria-Hungary from Russia. This in turn dragged in other members of both alliance structures. As noted, Britain was already motivated to protect the status quo in Europe, and then it was further pulled into the conflict when Germany violated Belgian neutrality as part of its invasion of France.
The Wikipedia page on the causes of the war notes that fatalism - the belief that the conflict was inevitable – is considered by some to have been a significant factor in the war coming about. In the book ‘Europe’s Last Summer’, for instance, David Fromkin examines the start of the conflict from the perspective of the Central Powers. He suggests that the best way to understand it is to think of it as the convergence of two wars, not one: Austria-Hungary wanted German help in the war it was expecting to have with Serbia; Germany, meanwhile, wanted Austro-Hungarian assistance against the war it expected to have with Russia.
The fear of Russia lay in her vast population base which, although slow to mobilise in a country without many railroads, would have swelled into an enormous army once fully deployed. Observers of course expected that the more Russia modernised in the coming years, the more this threat would grow.
Whatever one of these varied factors triggered the war, and it was most likely a combination of some or all of them, once it got going it spiralled into a global conflict with consequences still with us today. Germany’s U-boat campaign aggravated the American government, and then the Zimmerman Telegram finally brought the US into the war against Germany, decisively tilting the conflict in favour of the Allied/Entente powers.
The loss of life was of course enormous. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has taken Virtual Centre’s assessment that Britain alone, without even incorporating losses from its empire into the count, sustained 994,138 deaths.
Private Albert Ford – A Soldier Who Never Came Home
Tragic tales of love persevering through the mud and bloodshed of The Battle Of Passchendaele were discovered in 2017 and shared with the world.
Members of the public unearthed letters sent by their relatives from the trenches of one of the most infamous battles of the First World War.
Descendants of those soldiers shared their keepsakes to encourage others to look into their family history and apply to be at the official commemorations in Belgium in summer 2017.
In one letter preserved for a century; Private Albert Ford had to convey his love to his wife on a piece of paper before going over the top. This poignant letter home to his "dear beloved" wife Edith, is now kept by their great-granddaughter Louise Argent in Devon. Albert writes:
"My darling if this should ever reach you it will be a sure sign that I am gone under and what will become of you and the chicks I do not know but there is one above that will see to you and not let you starve …You have been the best of wives and I loved you deeply, how much you will never know."
"Dear heart do think sometimes of me in the future when your grief has worn a bit, and the older children, I know won't forget me, and speak sometimes of me to the younger ones …"
"Dearest if the chance should come your way for you are young and good looking and should a good man give you an offer it would please me to think you would take it, not to grieve too much for me … I should not have left you thus bringing suffering and poverty on a loving wife and children for which in time I hope you will forgive me."
"So dear heart I will bid you all farewell hoping to meet you in the time to come if there is a hereafter. Know that my last thoughts were of you in the dugout or on the fire step my thoughts went out to you, the only one I ever loved, the one that made a man of me."
Albert was killed in action on October 26, 1917. His last letter was treasured by Edith until her death. She never remarried and as she lay dying in February 1956, she said she could see Albert in the corner of her bedroom.
(These extracts were taken from another article on the Forces Network - to read it in full, click here).
The Russian Civil War (Allied Military Intervention 1918 – 1920)
Britain was one of a number of outside nations that got involved in the Russian Civil War as it began at the end of the First World War, fighting with the Whites against the Bolsheviks. The objective was to stop communism spreading to Europe.
The Russian Civil war had first begun in November 1917, after the Russian Revolution and removal of the emperor of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II. The Bolshevik leader Lenin would rise to become the head of the government in Soviet Russia instead. Wartime allies of Russia including France, Britain and Japan, as well as the United States, sent military equipment and men to assist White (anti-communist) forces.
The Royal Navy operated in the Baltic from November 1918 to November the following year and 112 personnel were killed. The Army also fought in northern Russia from May 1918 to October 1919 and had 327 personnel killed in the process. 41 British military personnel were also killed in southern Russia in operations between November 1918 and March 1920. There were also operations elsewhere in Russia that involved British troops.
Weary British Soldiers' Eyewitness Accounts Of The War
"It is a damn shame that troops who have been in France should have to come out here to suffer this when the war is over and we ought to be at home having a good time with our wives and children."
For millions of British soldiers, Christmas 1918 was a period of family, festivity and for the first time in five years, peace. It had been a hugely costly war – a war to end all wars. But for a considerable number of troops, that was not the case.
Conditions were described as dreadful. The quote just above, and those below, are excerpts from letters sent home from Russia by two British soldiers. They describe squalled living arrangements and a lack of rations for the men. It is worth remembering that the soldiers who authored the letters were recent victors of the First World War.
The letters were later printed in a leaflet by the People's Russian Information Bureau for propaganda purposes. Today, the leaflet can be found in the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick Library.
From a soldier in the British North Russian Expeditionary Force:
“We have had a terrible voyage, and if you could only just now see the conditions of those army invalids, huddled together and sick, it would, I know, make you – as it has made me – curse the men who sent us. We were absolutely torn away from our wives and children, and just when that [censored] Lloyd George was preparing to have a good Christmas. I wonder if any of the curses of these men fell on his head? God knows he had enough.”
The soldier’s second letter includes the following sections:
“We arrived here (Murmansk) on January 1st 1919, and nobody seemed to know anything about us, which was, in some respects, a good thing, seeing that it enabled us to have another meal on board, such as it was; but we were to find out pretty quickly that the food on board was fit for a king compared with what we got on shore. However, on coming alongside the landing stage, we met a party of British soldiers, and in all my life I never ran across such miserable object. The first thing they shouted at us was, “Have you any bread?” That didn’t make us feel very comfortable, I can assure you. However, I went below and begged a bowl of hot rice, and handed it up to them. The sight I shall never forget. The man in possession soon found himself surrounded by the hungry boys, who, without standing upon ceremony, simply snatched it away from him in handfuls and ate it just like wild beasts.
“Accommodation there is none, so we have been put on an old Russian battleship, which, I believe, was sunk in the Russian-Japanese War, and raised again by the Japanese. It has since been used a s a convict ship. In fact, there are about 150 Bolshevik prisoners on board under strong armed guards, so you can guess the conditions under which we are living – I mean existing.”
Another soldier sent a letter home to England in which the desperation of the conditions he faced are made clear …
“Now I will tell you what the country and people are like. The country is not fit to live in; the people here say it is worse than Siberia. We are never warm; we are up to our knees in snow and it is always freezing. I think that it is a damn shame that troops who have been in France have to come out here to suffer this when the war is over and we ought to be at home having a good time with our wives and children. If the people in England only knew what the chaps are having to go through out here, there would be some trouble. The people in England are told we are having a good time, but it is all damn lies.
“The Russian people hate us and we have to be very careful how we go about. We have no right in this country and they know it. One of our platoon officers was murdered on Christmas morning and another on Christmas night.”
THE ANGLO-IRISH WAR (1919 – 1921)
This conflict emerged after the First World War, in part spurred on by the Easter Rising of 1916. It took place between January 1919 and July 1921, beginning after the pro-Irish independence party Sinn Fein won a considerable victory in Irish elections and declared independence. Things escalated when the British government outlawed Sinn Fein and the new parliament they had created, the Dail, and the conflict pitted the IRA (Irish Republican Army) against the British Army and the Ulster Special Constabulary, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and their support bodies, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries.
20,000 British troops were committed to this conflict and 261 were killed (not including Irish police personnel.) It ended with a treaty that led to the partition of Ireland, leaving Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, and disputes related to this then set off a civil war within Ireland after that. The remainder of Ireland would become the Irish Free State which had the status of a Dominion power within the British Empire, meaning it had a large degree of autonomy though its government ministers were still expected to pledge allegiance to the British monarchy. This was ended in 1937 by a government led by Aamon de Valera, who had been one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.
NORTHERN IRELAND (1969 – 2007)
Britain, or rather England, first established an imperial footprint in Ireland in the 12th Century when the Irish king Diarmait Mac Murchada, or Dermot, invited England’s Henry II to intervene there. Ireland had not become as internally unified as England by that point. It had a High King who oversaw the country but also regional kings who retained some level of autonomy.
Dermot was one of these provincial kings. He ruled Leinster and provoked the other kings of Ireland to unite against him when he abducted the wife of one of them.
Fleeing abroad, Dermot ended up at the court of Henry II, who, because of his Norman lineage, ruled an empire that extended over England and down through what today is western France. Dermot bargained for Henry’s military support in reclaiming his throne at Leinster in exchange for Henry’s man Richard de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke (or ‘Strongbow’) getting the hand of Dermot’s daughter in marriage and his lands in Ireland when Dermot died. Henry II agreed, with Pope Adrian IV also endorsing the invasion because he had become concerned that the Church in Ireland was too independent and saw Norman control of Ireland as a means to help bring it closer.
Religion of course would play a major role in aggravating Anglo-Irish relations in the coming centuries too. The Irish were no match for Strongbow’s Norman army and he soon ended up in control of a portion of Ireland when Dermot died, as per the bargain, and Henry through him. In the years that followed, settlers from England and Scotland would end up in and around Dublin, an area called the Pale, and in the north of Ireland.
Because Ireland remained largely Catholic while England, and Scotland, became more Protestant, Ireland would essentially become a front in the 17th Century struggle between these two branches of Christianity. In fact, the settlement of Protestants from England and Scotland in the north of Ireland was informed by this conflict, their presence there meant to act as a buffer against the spread and perceived threat of Catholicism to Britain. It was this that lay at the root of what has been called ‘The Troubles’ in more recent years.
Over the centuries, tensions over religion would overlap in Ireland with a struggle for independence from Britain. In 1898, this manifest in a huge rebellion against British rule in Ireland led by Wolfe Tone, who killed himself after the rebels were defeated in battle and he was sentenced to death. In 1801, the Act of Union formerly brought Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in large part to give British authorities even greater power to prevent rebellions in future.
Unfortunately, the Irish continued to be neglected and exploited by the British government in Westminster. The most striking and egregious example of this was the callous economic mismanagement during the mid-19th Century Potato Famine. Roughly a quarter of the Irish population would die or leave Ireland as a result.
By the end of the 19th Century, Irish Home Rule had therefore become a major issue in the British Parliament. This was an effort to create a separate parliament within Ireland so that the Irish would have more control over their own affairs. It became a highly contentious issue in Britain, splitting off a large portion of the Liberal Party into a Unionist faction that allied itself with the Conservative Party, both of which opposed Home Rule.
The issue also split the Irish themselves. When the First World War broke out, many who were in favour of Home Rule favoured fighting alongside the British but a radical faction led by Patrick Pearse chose instead to act opportunistically. They sought to take advantage of Britain being distracted by the war to launch a rebellion and break Ireland away from the UK entirely. Their rebellion was soon quashed and the leaders hastily executed, something that created more rather than less sympathy for their cause.
Following the election of large numbers of Sein Fein politicians and the creation of a separate Irish parliament after the First World War, the Anglo-Irish War ensued in 1919, ending in 1921 with the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This resulted in the partition of Ireland, with Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom and the rest of Ireland becoming The Irish Free State the following year. This was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, until 1937 when it became completely independent of the rest of the UK and was rebranded as the Republic of Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, political power quickly coalesced around the Protestant majority which had the effect of marginalising the Catholic minority there. By the late 1960s, the drive for civil rights on behalf of racial minorities in the US and South Africa helped inspire a drive for Catholic rights in Northern Ireland. Soon, the struggle escalated into violence and this struggle became entangled with the drive by the IRA to create an entirely re-united Ireland separate from the rest of the UK.
British troops were soon pulled into the conflict, at first in response to a request in 1969 from the government in Northern Ireland to help it maintain order there. Operation Banner, as this was called, would last for a total of 38 years and was the longest continuous deployment of troops in British military history.
1,441 British service personnel died while deployed on tour during Operation Banner. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement began the process of bringing the conflict to a close, and significantly reduced the level of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. A power-sharing devolved Northern-Ireland government led by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness was later established in 2007. As major leaders in the nationalist (i.e. pro-Irish reunification and independence) and unionist camps, the inclusion of both men in government was a hugely significant step on the path to long-term peace in Northern Ireland.
THE THIRD ANGLO-AFGHAN WAR (1919)
The conditions for the Third Afghan War, which ran from May to August 1919, were put in place at the end of the Second Afghan War in 1880. At the end of that conflict, the British had installed Abdul Ruhman as Amir of Afghanistan (ruler.) He was willing to abide by the provisions of the Treaty of Gandamak which ceded certain parts of Afghanistan to the British, who at that time had territory adjacent to Afghanistan in India. The treaty also gave over Afghan foreign policy to the British, who had fought both the First and Second Afghan Wars as part of their efforts in ‘The Great Game’, which is the phrase used to denote imperial rivalry in the area between Britain and Russia during the 19th Century.
During the First World War, the leader of Afghanistan, Habibullah, remained officially neutral but a joint Turkish and German mission to the country managed to convince him that the country should be independent of British rule. After his assassination in 1919, his son Amanullah became Amir and also advocated for withdrawal from the Treaty of Gandmak. Things were intensified for Amanullah by the atmosphere in which he had come to power, namely the assassination of his father and subsequent arrest of his uncle for the deed. This arrest alienated conservatives within Afghanistan who had supported his uncle and so a war against British India also became politically expedient for Amanullah as a way to deflect attention away from him and to unite the factious Afghan ruling elites behind him. That fact that some of Britain’s military forces in India had been diverted elsewhere by the First World War, and that a controversial killing of civilians in India by British troops known as the Amritsar massacre had recently occurred in India both aided Amanullah.
The war, when it broke out, would suck in 10,000 British and Indian troops of whom 265 were killed and roughly 500 died of disease during the conflict.
THE WAZIRISTAN CAMPAIGN (1919 – 1920)
This conflict grew directly out of the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It started as a result of attacks on British garrisons by tribesmen in Waziristan, then part of British India and today in Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan. The tribesmen considered themselves independent and a rumour that the British were to hand the Waziristan area over to Afghanistan as part of a post-Third Anglo-Afghan War peace settlement is said to have prompted them to fight.
The fighting took place between November 1919 and December 1920 and saw the involvement of four brigades of British and Indian troops, 603 of them would be killed.
THE AFGHAN WAR (2001 – PRESENT)
This conflict came out of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States in September of 2001. Those responsible for the attacks, Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, were hiding in Afghanistan at the time.
The Bush Administration in the US demanded that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan hand them over, and the Taliban leadership demanded proof that they were behind the attacks. This diplomatic impasse was broken when the US and its allies, including Britain, invaded the country. (The US administration had seen the talks as delaying tactics).
In the event, Osama bin Laden slipped over the border into Pakistan only to be killed there by US Navy SEALs in 2011. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were removed from power by the coalition led by the US. As with the subsequent war in Iraq, foreign forces were next drawn into a protracted conflict informed by local conditions as much as it was the by the original mission to remove the Taliban and bring democracy to the country.
Operation Herrick denoted the British side of the campaign, running from 2002 until 2014. The British death toll for the war came to 467.
For a more comprehensive look at how the war in Afghanistan started, as well as related links, click here.
REVOLT IN IRAQ (1920)
This occurred between June and October 1920 in response to the replacement of the Ottoman Turks in Iraq by the British following the end of World War 1 (which saw the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.) This was established by the League of Nations and was called the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. The revolt was put down by British troops (many of whom were Indian) who were assisted by the RAF, which engaged in aerial bombing and was at the time, John Roberts points out in ‘Iraq: A History’, “a terrifying new form of coercion … ”.
Casualty figures vary. John Robertson says the result was that 9,000 Iraqis were killed or wounded and that British Empire losses came to around 2,000, 450 of which were fatalities. Wikipedia cites ‘A History of Iraq’ by Charles Tripp as giving rates of 6,000 Iraqi to 1,000 British and Indian dead, and the Guardian and giving a figure of 10,000 Iraqi dead. Wikipedia also gives a total of approximately 135,000 British Empire personnel being involved in the campaign against 131,000 Iraqis.
THE GULF WAR (1990 – 1991)
The Gulf War was triggered when the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent his military forces to invade neighbouring Kuwait, a former British protectorate, in August of 1990.
His motivation for this stemmed from the 1980 – 1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which Iraq, a country with a largely Shia Muslim population but Sunni-affiliated leadership, fought Iran, the major Shia Muslim power in the region. The schism between these two major sects of Islam goes back centuries and runs approximately through Iraq, with a majority Shia population to the east in Iran and majority Sunni populations to the west, such as in Saudi Arabia. Kuwait is also a majority Sunni nation.
During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had run up debts and afterwards expected a certain amount help from its creditors in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Saddam Hussein was particularly focused on keeping the price of oil high enough to help facilitate economic recovery, the price of oil being reduced when the supply is higher. He accused Kuwait of ‘slant’ drilling for oil, namely extracting it at a diagonal angle that started out on the Kuwaiti side of the border on the surface but was on the Iraqi side under the ground. The New York Times reported at the time that this allegation was unproven, though what was not was that Kuwait was exceeding its OPEC quota and extracting oil at a rate that would lower the price.
The coalition of countries that joined forces to remove Iraq from Kuwait was huge, consisting of 39 countries, 28 of which supplied troops. This combined force came to about 670,000 with almost half a million being supplied by the US.
The war began with a long preparatory phase called ‘Operation Desert Shield’ before progressing to a shorter phase called ‘Operation Desert Storm’ in January and February of 1990 that saw the Iraqis comprehensively defeated.
Iraqi losses were huge. For its part, Britain lost 46 military personnel during the conflict, according to the MoD.
For more on the Gulf War, click here.
AIR OPERATIONS IN IRAQ (1991 – 2003)
This campaign was a continuation of the Gulf War meant to contain the military capabilities of Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein. It did this through the use of air patrols of no-fly zones put in place over Iraq by the US following the Gulf War. There was also the occasional use of air strikes to reduce the country’s military capability.
In ‘Iraq: A History’, John Robertson points out that the number of sorties by US warplanes reached 8,000 per year during this period. He also notes that this, along with the passing of the ‘Iraq Liberation Act’ by the US Congress in 1998, which aimed at the eventual removal of Saddam Hussein, meant that the US was essentially still in a state of war with him. Economic sanctions were used concurrently with air patrols and air strikes during this period.
Although not as likely to generate casualties as the Gulf and later Iraq War were and would be, there were still dangers inherent in patrolling and bombing Iraq at this time and Britain sustained seven military deaths according to the MoD.
THE IRAQ WAR (2003 - 2011)
While the name for the British side of the Gulf War was Operation Granby, the moniker Operation Telic would be used to denote the British portion of the 2003 Iraq War.
Along with the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion of Iraq was connected to the 9/11 terror attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
In actual fact, the regime of Saddam Hussein was not allied with the al-Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the attacks, or its leader Osama bin Laden. That was the conclusion of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in the UK, which stated that there was no evidence of “covert transfers of WMD-related technology and expertise to terrorist groups … " by Saddam Hussein’s government.
Britain’s intelligence agencies also assessed that Iraq did not have any nuclear weapons, even if Saddam Hussein almost certainly wanted them. However, the UK Intelligence and Security Committee did conclude on the basis of evidence from the JIC that Saddam Hussein had “active chemical, biological and nuclear programmes and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons”.
Preceded by huge controversy and a vocal anti-war movement, the 2003 war in Iraq ultimately went forward on the basis of what was seen as Saddam Hussein’s non-cooperation with UN weapons inspectors.
As John Robertson points out in ‘Iraq: A History’, from Saddam Hussein’s point of view, the credibility of the weapons inspections teams was undermined by the placement of CIA spies within them. He had also, in fact, decided he would get rid of his chemical and biological weapons and embryonic nuclear program. Yet, “fearful that Iran’s leaders might vengefully take advantage of Iraq’s weakened state, he chose not to publicize this. Saddam’s silence was to have almost apocalyptic consequences for his country eleven years later … “ in 2003.
Once committed, UK military forces assisted in the swift overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime and then became entangled in sectarian violence in the years that followed. 178 British military personnel were killed in the conflict, according to MoD figures.
For more on the build up to and start of the 2003 Iraq War, click here.
AIR OPERATIONS AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE OVER IRAQ AND SYRIA (2014 – PRESENT)
Operation Shader began as a humanitarian aid mission in September 2014 but has since developed into one of the Royal Air Force’s most complex combat operations.
The mission is Britain’s contribution to the coalition campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS), the militant Islamist group aiming at establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
To ensure the defeat of IS, 82 countries joined together to form a coalition which includes the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Estonia, Japan, Italy, Kenya and the Philippines to name just a few.
Now, six years later and with the Tornado retired, the RAF’s Typhoons are leading the UK’s war on IS - a battle that has evolving but is far from over.
The operation against IS began in Iraq on September 26, 2014, following a formal request for assistance by the Iraqi government after the genocide of the Yazidi people and other ethnic minorities by IS militants.
In October 2014, the UK operation also extended into Syria, where the Royal Air Force conducted several surveillance flights. MQ-9 Reaper drones based in Cyprus were responsible for 30 percent of aerial surveillance over Syria.
The UK's most advanced warplane, the F-35B, successfully completed its first operational missions in June 2019. The Lightning jets flew alongside Typhoon aircraft over Iraq and Syria in support of Op Shader.
Personnel from across the tri-services are involved in Op Shader with the majority of UK personnel coming from the RAF.
The UK commits more than 1,000 military personnel to the region to support counter-IS operations. On the ground, British soldiers have trained Iraqi Security Forces. To date, the UK and its Coalition partners have trained more than 225,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces in engineering, medical, counter-IED, urban operations and basic infantry skills. And the Royal Air Force has conducted strikes in Iraq and Syria and provides highly advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to Coalition partners.
In total, four UK armed forces personnel have died as a result of Op Shader - three in Iraq and one in Cyprus. In March 2019, former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that IS had not been completely defeated, and that there is an ongoing threat from the militants. He said:
“This has been a long campaign ending the misery of millions, as Daesh swept through Syria and Iraq, and came so close to taking the city of Baghdad.
"But due to the tireless efforts of our service personnel, we have been able to beat them back, depriving them of territory and making sure that Britain is safer.
“But we cannot be complacent. They’ve dispersed, and they’ll continue to pose a threat to Britain, and that is why we will always remain vigilant.”
REMEMBERING A SOLDIER KILLED DURING OP SHADER
On March 11, 2020, Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon of the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry was killed by enemy action while deployed on Op Shader 10.
LCpl Gillon was serving as a medic attached to 1 Battalion Irish Guards Battlegroup in Taji, Iraq and was described by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Money, Commanding Officer of 1 Battalion, as “bright, confident and [a] highly competent soldier”.
Major General Celia Harvey, The Deputy Commander Field Army, said of Lance Corporal Gillon:
“Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, an Army Reservist, had been fulfilling a long-term ambition to serve her country on an operational tour in Iraq when their military base came under rocket attack.
“As a Combat Medical Technician, she was carrying out an essential role as part of a closely knit team, helping to bring stability to Iraq.”
The 26-year-old served as a reservist with the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, combining her military work with a career as a self-employed sports physiotherapist. LCpl Gillon had volunteered to be part of the Irish Guards Battle Group during their deployment to Iraq.
By reading the plethora of tributes written after her death, it is clear to see that she was adored by her family, friends and fellow soldiers. Her family said:
"Our hearts are irreparably broken at the loss of our beautiful, bright and fun-loving Brodie. She brought immeasurable love, fun and energy to our lives and was so generous in every way. She was determined and tenacious, wonderfully funny, courageous and caring.
"Brodie was a force of nature, a strong independent young woman. She was fierce, with a strong mind and a sensitive soul. Her healing and strength will guide us as we carry on without her, for her."
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, LCpl Gillon could not be buried with the usual military honours. Because of this, those who mourned LCpl Gillon’s death were encouraged by her family to light a candle to remember the 26-year-old at 9pm on March 31, 2020 - the day she was laid to rest in a private service. People then posted videos or photos of those lit candles using the hashtag #shinebrightbrodie.
LCpl Gillon’s fellow soldiers described her as an outstanding soldier who was caring, loveable, fun, selfless and trustworthy. The emotional tributes help paint a picture of the sort of woman and soldier LCpl Gillon was so that the public can pay their respects for her ultimate sacrifice and keep her in their minds on Remembrance Day.
6. India and Burma
Moplah Rebellion, Malabar, India (1921 – 1922)
Also known as the Malabar rebellion, this uprising against British rule occurred between August 1921 and January 1922. It was the culmination of years of discontent by Muslim agrarian workers who had become an exploited agrarian class under the British legal land system. Despite this, when the rebellion started, it also took on a religious nature and many Hindus were killed by the rebels.
Three British battalions, one cavalry regiment and five Indian battalions (plus police) were eventually deployed to quash the rebellion. 43 were killed.
The Tharrawaddy Revolt, Burma (1930 – 1931)
Also known as the Saya San Rebellion, the historical context for this deployment again involved British imperial territories and activities in Asia.
Burma (now Myanmar) had been acquired by the British in the late 19th Century as they continued to expand their influence in and around India. British imperial rule became a target for resent however when the Great Depression of the 1930s impacted rice prices. In Burma at the time, rice was the major cash crop, with many of the farmers being peasant workers utterly dependent on the sale of rice in the international market. When the depression led to a collapse in overall demand and a huge drop in rice prices, many rice farmers in Burma, who were already poor to begin with, were forced in desperate financial straits. With large numbers of people and land held in a very small number of wealthy hands, the Burmese peasants were already resentful of the British colonial government that ran the country.
All of this made them more receptive to the promise by the former monk and rebel leader Saya San that he would restore the Burmese monarchy’s authority, as well as the Buddhist religion within Burma, and that he would push the British out of the country.
The subsequent rebellion began in the town of Tharrawady and lasted from December 22, 1930, to November 28, 1931. Approximately 23,000 British, Indian and Burmese personnel became involved and they sustained 138 casualties. Wikipedia notes that the rebellion was beaten back and 1,000 rebels killed. Saya San and 125 other rebel leaders would be executed.
7. Egypt And Palestine
The Arab Revolt In Palestine (1936 – 1939)
During the First World War, Palestine, like much of the Middle East, had been a part of the Ottoman Empire. When the Ottoman Turks lost the war along with Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria their empire was broken up. During the conflict, the British had worked with Arab nationalists to help bring about this process following the war and had promised them an Arab state of their own, but, in the event, the Middle East ended up being broken in smaller states administered by European powers.
Palestine became a mandate of the British at this time, meaning that it had been given the role of administering the government there by the League of Nations, which was essentially a forerunner to the UN meant to help arbitrate between powers and avoid military conflicts after World War 1.
An Arab desire for independence continued to fester (along with economic grievances), as did resentment at continued Jewish immigration to Palestine that was encouraged by the 1917 Balfour Declaration. This had articulated support by the British government for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, an effort called Zionism. Another spark for the uprising was the death in 1935 of the anti-Zionist and anti-British militant leader Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who was killed in a gun battle with police. The discovery of an arms shipment that many Arabs believed was intended to enable a Jewish military take over of the country fuelled tensions further.
The revolt began as a general strike in 1936 and by 1937 became violent, and it continued until 1939. Approximately 50,000 British personnel (excluding police) became involved, 262 of whom were killed.
The Palestine Emergency (1945 – 1948)
While the 1936 to 1939 rebellion in Palestine had been a revolt against the British Mandate by Arabs, the post-Second World War conflict in the country occurred between the British and Jewish militants.
The Palestine Emergency, also called ‘The Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine’, actually began in 1944, though at first the police and government were targeted rather than the military. The rationale for this was that the Jewish militants and the British military shared a common enemy in anti-Semitic Nazi Germany.
At first, the conflict also featured Jewish groups fighting each other. The largest Jewish paramilitary group was Haganah, the forerunner of the IDF (Israeli Defence Force.) Haganah battled alongside the British against Irgun, a right-wing paramilitary group. It and another right-wing militant group called Lehi were part of the Revisionist movement, which aimed to turn all of Palestine and Transjordan (now Jordan) into a Jewish state.
The origin of the conflict lay in British attempts to balance Arab and Jewish desires and aspirations in the country. It became particularly heated by the publication of a government paper in 1939 that outlined the British intention to limit Jewish immigration to and land purchases within Palestine and to give it independence, with an Arab majority, within a decade. When Haganah became frustrated with British limits to Jewish immigration and delays in establishing the state of Israel following the Second World War, it sided with Lehi and Irgun. Now all three made targets of the British military.
Eventually the Palestine Emergency would merge with a civil war that erupted between Jews and Arabs, with military confrontations continuing between the British and Jewish insurgents within this larger conflict. This British would disentangle themselves from the fighting by departing in 1948, the official end date of the British Mandate. Fighting between Jews and Arabs, on the other hand, intensified as adjacent Arab states flooded into the vacuum left by the British. This enlarged conflict became the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
754 British military deaths occurred during the UK’s involvement in the fighting.
James Glew And British Soldiers Still Being Shot At After Ww2
For thousands of British soldiers, the conclusion of fighting in Europe (VE Day) and in the Far East (VJ Day) in May and August 1945 respectively did not mark the embarkation of peace. In 1944, troubles began in Palestine due to the arrival of significant numbers of Jewish refugees from mainland Europe. The British – who controlled Palestine – would not sanction the passage of these arriving men, women and children which ultimately resulted in violent clashes amongst Jewish groups and British forces in Palestine.
At its peak, there were 100,000 British personnel based in the region during the Palestine Emergency.
Among the violent episodes of this conflict was the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jeruselam in July 1946, referred to by Sapper James Glew, a member of 248 Field Company, Royal Engineers, in the passages below.
The passages are taken from the 'WW2 People's War’ online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.
JAMES GLEW, Sapper, 248 Field Company, Royal Engineers:
“The war in Europe had ended almost a year before, but 1st Division was still being shot at. The Internal Security duties were extremely stressful, because the Jewish guerrilla terrorist gangs were becoming even more adventurous. Attacks increased on Army camps, RAF bases, public offices, Police and railway stations. 248 Field Company suffered its first casualty killed, since first landing in Palestine, during June.”
In another passage, James Glew’s account continued by describing the scenes at the site of a bomb explosion carried out by terrorists on July 22, 1946 in Jerusalem. In the incident, the King David Hotel had been attacked:
“A whole wing of the seven storey building collapsed in the huge explosion and there was a large loss of life. The King David Hotel was the most prestigious hotel in the country, and housed the headquarters of the Palestine Government. Military operations against the Jewish gangs increased. Sappers were employed to use their mine detectors to try and find hidden arms dumps.”
A later passage in the same BBC archive record details a typical operation for British troops involved in the conflict:
“I took part in dawn raids on Jewish settlements, (Kibbutz) searching for arms. The Infantry rounded up everyone, and then us Engineers used our mine sweeping detectors to try and locate the hidden stores of arms. We found one arms dump hidden beneath the wooden board walk in front of a hut. Beneath the veranda part of the hut, a large room had been excavated - it even had electric lighting, and the ventilation was via dummy rainwater fall pipes from the roof of the hut. Access was through a trap-door that had been set into a mat well.”
The Suez Canal Zone (1951 – 1954)
The Cold War played a background role in setting up the next conflict Britain became entangled in, this time in the Middle East. Britain’s imperial past likewise informed the emergence of this new conflict.
Like other European powers, Britain had become involved in Scramble for Africa, the rapid and intense conquest of African territory at the end of the 19th Century. Part of their actions on the continent involved going to war in Egypt in 1882. Historical interpretations of the motivations for this vary, and it may have been motivated by financial interests in Egypt or by the Suez Canal, or both.
The Suez Canal had been completed by 1869, having been funded by the French and Egyptian governments, but it later fell into British control. This was a result of Britain gaining a large portion of the shares in the canal in 1874 following financial crisis and debt in Egypt, and of the 1882 war there. This made Britain the prime controller of what was a major geo-strategic asset, the main and shortest route between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. It would later be attacked by the Germans and Ottoman-Turkish forces during World War 1 when Britain and France closed it to non-Allied shipping. 100,000 British troops ended up there to defend it for the remainder of the war.
In the post-World War 2 era it became important again as a conduit to the oil-rich Middle East, making it an important asset for Britain (and by this point France) as the capitalist west competed for global dominance with the communist powers.
Yet, by the 1950s, Egyptian rulers and their people had come to resent the presence of foreign troops in their territory. This was not aided by what they saw as the betrayal of Arabs in Britain’s involvement in the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine. Violence broke out in 1951 and between then and 1954 Britain would lose 405 military personnel in the canal zone. Eventually, the tensions there, though settled for a while, would boil to the surface again in the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis.
The Suez Canal Crisis (1956)
In 1954, a new leader emerged in Egypt when Gamal Abdul Nasser became president of the country. Under him, the British had agreed to leave the Suez Canal zone in 1956 on the condition that they could re-deploy troops there if it was threatened by a foreign power. Foreign trade, and oil, had to be allowed to flow freely along it.
But Nasser would not abide by the agreement. He had intensely disliked the British occupation and its then support of Iraq. As leader of Egypt, he was in competition with Iraq to become the primary leader of the peoples in the Arab region, a movement called pan-Arabism.
In 1956, the British and the World Bank pulled funding from the Aswam Dam, a major part of Egypt’s effort to industrialise. The project would enable the country to generate hydro-electric power and better control flood waters from the Nile river and store water for irrigation, the backbone of Egypt’s agriculture.
In response, Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. Government revenue gained from doing so, he said, could be ploughed back into the building of the much-needed Aswam Dam.
Britain, France and Israel launched a war in response, invading the Canal zone under the pretence of Britain and France occupying it again to separate the warring Egyptians and Israelis. (One objective of the Israelis was to remove the block the Egyptians had put on their ships traversing the Straits of Tiran, which ran between the Sinai Peninsula and the rest of Egypt, just south of the Canal).
But the invasion angered the American president, Dwight D Eisenhower, who was running for re-election and wanted things to remain peaceful. He was also concerned about how the war had stoked Cold War tensions by inflaming the Russians. They also used the crisis opportunistically, to brutally quash an uprising against Soviet rule in Hungary. The US president threatened to sell off its stocks of pound sterling bonds which would have proved hugely disruptive to Britain’s finances.
A withdrawal was inevitable, with Britain having lost 24 military lives during the campaign.
8. The Second World War (1939 - 1945)
A conflict essentially borne out of the unresolved issues of the First World War, World War 2 ran from 1 September 1939 to 2 September 1945. It saw the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan fight Britain, France, the US and the USSR. Many other countries were also involved in the conflict, not least through their inclusion in empires controlled the primary warring powers, such as Britain. In fact, the trigger for the war in Europe was the invasion of Poland by Germany in September, 1939. In the Pacific theatre, meanwhile, Japanese military expansion resulted in their attacks against British and American interests, something that drew the hitherto neutral United States into the conflict.
Its causes were a complex interaction between economic, historical and social factors: namely, grievances left over from the First World War, hardships and disruptions in international trade that plagued the interwar years and hit the Axis nations particularly hard, and the rise of fascism and militarism in these countries in response to these problems. Fascism and militarism, as well as being symptoms of these other problems also became accelerants to war in and of themselves.
The tide of the war began to turn against the Axis powers when the Germans, who had invaded their former ally the Soviet Union, lost at Moscow and the following year at Stalingrad. It then turned decisively again, this time in the west, when Britain (along with Canada) and the United States managed to force their way back into France on June 6, 1944 – known as D-Day. Italy had already been invaded by the Allies and as the war played out in what was essentially its last act, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime in Germany were gradually ground down from both sides by continued Soviet and western Allied attacks. In the Pacific, British and American efforts also shrunk down the Japanese sphere of control until Japan itself was left, at which point the dropping of two atomic bombs by the US on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki eventually forced the Japanese leadership to concede defeat. Fighting was already over by September 1945 but it was the official Japanese surrender on the 2nd of that month that brought World War 2 formerly to a close.
Approximately 4.6 million personnel from the United Kingdom itself served in the conflict (i.e. not including those from the British Empire), of whom approximately 357,000 were killed, a figure that includes those in the Merchant Navy, which was essential for getting supplies into Britain during the conflict.
Lieutenant Den Brotheridge – The First Allied Soldier Killed In Action On D-Day
Since the success of D-Day and the heroic efforts of all those behind it marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi regime in western Europe, the first man to die in the campaign is highly significant historically.
The first man on the Allied side generally acknowledged to have been killed in action is Lieutenant Den Brotheridge.
Den was a member of 2 Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, the commander of 1 Platoon in ‘D’ Company under Major John Howard.
Howard’s men were tasked with leading a daring assault on the bridges over the Caen Canal (now known as Pegasus Bridge) and the Orne River. It was vital for them to be in Allied hands so that the D-Day beach landings that were to follow could press on over them and into Normandy.
After crash landing in gliders adjacently to the bridges in the early hours of June 6, 1944, Howard’s men, Lieutenant Brotheridge amongst them, leapt out and rushed for their objectives.
Brotheridge led the first charge across Pegasus Bridge, silencing a machine-gun position on the far side before being hit in the neck by machine-gun fire from the nearby Gondree Café. His wounds were fatal and Brotheridge passed away, aged 28.
9. Southeast Asia
Policing Action Against Vietnamese Nationalists In French Indo-China (1945 – 1946)
As part of French Indochina, Vietnam had been a colony of that country since the 19th Century. In World War 2, Japan invaded Indochina during its expansion throughout the Pacific theatre, leaving a puppet Vichy French government in place there for the remainder of the war.
It was the cessation of hostilities in 1945 that then set the stage for more conflict within Vietnam. The French intended to return the country to its control while a nationalist movement that had been growing there for years had led to an expectation of post-war Vietnamese independence.
Like Korea (see the section on East Asia), Vietnam after World War 2 was administered by China in the north and western powers (France and Britain) in the south as the country was meant to transition from being under Japanese control.
British troops, of whom there were about 5,000, were sent into Vietnam in September 1945 under General Douglas Gracey to secure the city of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and the surrounding area. They were tasked with liberating Allied territory and POWs, disarming Japanese troops and ensuring law and order.
This basic policing mission became more complex as the situation in the country developed into the First Indochina War, which was to last until 1954, although British involvement ended much sooner. British and French leadership were both concerned about communism, which informed some aspects of the independence effort, and so they worked together to restore French control in the Saigon area. There was violence and disorder, one example of the political chaos being the fact that Japanese soldiers would end up fighting both for and against the British and French.
After helping to re-establish control of Saigon, which entailed fighting battles in and around the city in late 1945 and early 1946, Gracey handed power exclusively to the French and left in January 1946. Some British troops would remain, most leaving in March but a company from 8 Punjab Regiment remaining beyond that point, which is why the last British troops (or British Indian troops) to die in Vietnam would be killed in June of 1946. 40 British personnel had been killed in the campaign overall – this figure includes both troops from Britain itself and those from India still serving with the British.
The Indonesian War Of Independence (1945 – 1946)
Like the French and Indochina, Indonesia had been a colony of the Dutch within which a strong movement for independence had grown up. By the time the Japanese left in 1945, after having occupied it during the Second World War, the country was ready to be free of Holland entirely.
At that point, the Dutch were still recovering themselves from occupation by the Germans during the Second World War. Thus, as a temporary measure, Britain agreed to send its troops to Indonesia to restore order for Holland until it was ready to resume control of the territory. Wikipedia points out that while the Dutch took this to mean restoration of it as a colony, the British saw their role as merely establishing order and civilian government again in the wake of end of World War 2 and Japanese control over the territory. (A Japanese presence would remain in Indonesia during this period, even though the Empire of Japan had collapsed and most of its troops gone back to Japan. Some of those who remained would fight with the Indonesians).
British military involvement would end in November of 1946, although it remained diplomatically engaged for longer. The war dragged on for four years, until 1949, when Holland recognised Indonesia as an independent state.
For a war in which Britain was only briefly involved, it sustained a considerable number of casualties. Establishing control of urban centres was something foreign powers were generally able to do in Indonesia, but their Indonesian enemies were able to hide out in the countryside. However, running against that trend was the fact that the largest battle in the war, the Battle of Surabaya, took place in the city of Surabaya on the island of Java. Before British troops arrived in the city in October of 1945, Indonesian mobs had started killing European and pro-Dutch Eurasian inhabitants. When they did arrive, combat was fierce and one of those killed with a British brigadier.
Overall, the British forces would sustain over 600 dead and a similar number missing and presumed dead during the campaign. In this instance, most of these were Indian troops still serving as part of the British Empire.
The Malaya Emergency (1948 – 1960)
The Malaya Emergency has the dubious distinction of having been the post-Second World War British military operation with the greatest loss of life, with 1,442 deaths. Operation Banner, the campaign in Northern Ireland, and the Korean War are the second and third-worst operations in this respect.
The conflict raged from 1948 to 1960 and was also rooted in Britain’s imperial past. By the time of the Second World War, British Malaya took up a large part of what is the Malay peninsula and modern-day Malaysia. The British presence in and around the peninsula had increased since the 18th Century when Britain had first established a trading presence there.
Before World War 2, its location proved advantageous, it was thought, for a naval base as well. The purpose of this was to help protect other British interests in Asia from the growing military threat posed by the Japanese. It was deemed both suitably close enough to protect other interests in the region (i.e. India and Hong Kong) yet also far enough away from the Japanese homeland to have some protection from attack.
In the event, these protections proved illusory as the Japanese spread rapidly throughout the Pacific in 1941. Included in this rapid expansion was their advance down through the thick jungles of Malaya, which the British hoped would help screen the base at Singapore from attack.
After the war, the British took back control of Malaya but by this point a strong independence movement had come about. Technically, the territory had consisted of a patchwork of statelets with local rulers who deferred to the British in key areas, though these were put under the single umbrella of the Malayan Union in 1946.
This new arrangement was not acceptable to the Malays, however, partly because it reduced the authority of local leaders and partly because the British made it easier for Chinese migrants to gain citizenship and vote. Over the years, they had encouraged Chinese (and Indian) workers to move to and work in Malaya. Tin mines and rubber plantations were a major part of the local economy and Chinese workers often ended up working in the mines and related areas, often displacing local Malays from these jobs in the process. Both areas, being commodity based, were subject to price swings in the international market and consequent unemployment and poverty on a downturn. Rubber plantations though, where many of the displaced Malays ended up, were particularly susceptible to this.
Acquiescing to the Malays’ concerns, the British reorganised and replaced the Malayan Union with the Federation of Malaya in 1948.
For their part, the Chinese subpopulation was dissatisfied with this new arrangement. They felt betrayed by the roll back of easy citizenship requirements and voting rights, particularly in light of resistance to the Japanese by the Chinese in Malaya during World War 2. Tin mining was also poorly paid, giving the coming struggle for independence a class aspect.
The interests of the very poor, particularly poor Chinese Malayans, were represented by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP.) In 1948 the British banned the MCP, trade unions and other leftist parties in response to the killing of three Europeans by three Chinese men. Local police were also empowered to arrest communists.
In response, remaining communists fled to the jungle and formed what was to be the MCP’s military arm, the MNLA (Malayan Liberation Army.) This attacked tin mines and rubber plantations in an attempt to cause economic damage to Britain.
The subsequent conflict would see British troops fighting as part of a Commonwealth effort against MNLA guerrillas in the jungle. Commonwealth forces eventually prevailed by cutting off MNLA guerrillas from their support amongst the local population.
Brunei today is a sultanate that takes up a small portion of the island of Borneo, which is shares with Indonesia in the south and Malaysia in the north. However, at one point in its imperial past, Brunei controlled the whole of the island, and lands beyond, but by the 19th Century, its share of Borneo was confined to the north.
According to Wikipedia, scholars think Brunei became Islamic sometime in the 15th Century, which is why its ruler was, and still is, a sultan. It was thus the Sultan of the country that Europeans dealt with when they first made their way to Borneo in the 16th Century. It was not until 1839, however, that British adventurer James Brooke helped the Bruneian sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II put down a revolt in Sarawak. This is now a state in modern-day Malaysia laying in the north of island of Borneo, but at the time it took up much of remainder of Brunei’s empire on the island.
Sultan Saifuddin II gifted the territory to Brooke as a reward for his help, making him a governor of the territory, or rajah. A conflict between the two men later resulted in the territory becoming independent of Brunei entirely. The sultanate continued to lose territory and eventually the British ended up with an official resident in the country itself, eventually making Brunei a British protectorate (i.e. where the Sultan retained internal control of the country but the British had control of its foreign affairs in return for protecting the Sutlan.)
Brunei would remain a protectorate until 1984, and since oil was discovered there in 1926, both parties stood to gain financially from this arrangement. Royal Dutch Shell operates in Brunei to this day, and according to Wikipedia, the petroleum sector of the economy provides 90 percent of government revenue in the country.
In fact, oil installations in the country were one of the targets attacked when a revolt broke out there in 1962. This erupted over the country’s future direction. There had been an effort, initially supported by the Sultan, to include Brunei in a scheme called the Federation of Malaysia, or the Malaysia Agreement. This was a plan to politically merge Brunei and the other British protectorates across the north of the island of Borneo with Singapore and with the Federation of Malaya on the Malay peninsula. In the end, the Sultan would come to disagree with the plan and Brunei would remain separate from what would become Malaysia, as would Singapore eventually.
In 1962, however, the anticipation that the sultanate would move towards the merger fuelled the TNKU (North Kalimantan National Army), a militia affiliated with the Brunei People’s Party (BPP.) More generally, this party wanted greater independence from the UK, and more democracy within the sultanate.
When it was launched, the revolt only ended up lasting a little over a week, from December 8 to December 17. British troops were sent in by land as well as by sea to help put down the coup. Seven service personnel would die in the process.
Borneo (1962 – 1966)
British military operations on the island of Borneo between 1962 and 1966 was a continuation of its activities in Brunei. Straight from being deployed the island at the end of 1962, they were then required for the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation that began in January of 1963.
The background to this conflict lay with the emergence of neighbouring Indonesia from Dutch colonial control following the end of the Second World War. The country’s first president since independence was a man name Sukarno, and he opposed the formation of the new country of Malaysia.
Wikipedia notes that his motives for this are disputed, and various suggested reasons may apply, in all or in part. A common theme seems to have been a fear that Malaysia was going to be a puppet state of the British, and that its creation would prove dangerous for neigbouring Indonesia’s security. It is also possible that the merger of various states that created Malaysia was not a big enough merger for Sukarno, and that he wished to lead an effort to unite the island of Borneo as well as the peninsula of Malaya with Indonesia. As a young, confident state, it is also possible Indonesia was flexing its military muscles and opportunistically trying to gain control of neighbouring territory; conversely, it is also possible that a certain lack of confidence about the state of Indonesia’s economy and politics drove Sukarno to seek a foreign campaign he could unite his country around.
Whatever the reasons, the war shared a precursor in the revolt against the Sultan of Brunei for the Indonesians as well as the British troops who had already been brought to Borneo. Again, Wikipedia notes that the degree of support that the Indonesians gave the TNKU that launched the revolt is disputed. At the very least, the TNKU leaned towards Indonesia politically, its leader having an affiliation with the country and preferring it to Malaysia as beacon of post-colonial independence.
The war was fought to some degree on the Malay peninsula, but in the main it took place along the border between the newly-created Malaysia and Indonesia on the island of Borneo. Initially, the Indonesians relied upon local volunteers there. As their incursions across the border became more effective, the British responded with more aggressive jungle patrolling in turn.
In the end, Indonesia formally agreed to recognise Malaysia in 1966 and Sukarno would be removed from power the following year. 179 British service personnel were killed during the conflict, 140 on Borneo and another 39 on the Malay peninsula during attempts made by Sukarno between 1964 and 1966 to expand the conflict there.
Cambodia (1991 – 1993)
The United Kingdom supplied armed forces personnel as part of a UN multinational peacekeeping operation in Cambodia from 1992 to 1993. Altogether, 46 countries came together and provided police, military observers and troops with the joint aim of restoring peace and ensuring a fair election.
The Cambodian Civil War had broken out in 1968 between the communist Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government. The war resulted in the victory and subsequent governance of the Khmer Rouge in 1975, until the Khmer Rouge was removed by the government of neighbouring Vietnam. Under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, a quarter of the Cambodian population had died.
Another conflict erupted with the Vietnamese and their allies in the new Cambodian government (the People's Republic of Kampuchea) on one side and the Khmer Rouge on the other. This would last until 1989. The Paris Peace Agreements that followed set up the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) between 1992 and 1993. This was provided to help keep the ceasefire going and to begin the process of removing land mines and booby traps from the country.
Of the 22,000 UN personnel involved in the peacekeeping mission, there were 78 fatalities, one of which was a member of the UK Armed Forces (in this case, a non-combatant death.)
10. East Asia
The Yangtze Incident (1949)
The Yangtze Incident took place on the Yangtze river in China in 1949, during the Chinese Civil War. This had begun before World War 2 when, in the aftermath of the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Chinese emperor, two factions emerged. These were the Nationalist forces known as the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communist forces led by Mao Zedong. Their civil war experienced an interregnum during the Second World War when Chinese forces fought with the Japanese, but the conflict started up again in the years after World War 2.
The British became entangled in this conflict when Chinese communist forces fired upon a Royal Navy patrol vessel called the Amethyst, which is why this event is also known as the Amethyst Incident. This was one of four ships on the Yangtze river at that time that were there to protect the British embassy in the city of Nanjing.
The ship was fired upon at first by one artillery battery of the communist forces but these shots did not come anywhere near the vessel and the crew of Amethyst did not interpret this salvo as the warning it was intended to be. When it continued on its path it was fired upon and hit by another battery and, later, taken into custody of the Chinese communist side. They insisted that the British ship had fired first and refused to release it unless the British, French and Americans withdrew military personnel from any part of China. In fact, it transpired later that the Chinese communists had fired first upon the Amethyst, believing it to be an American ship sent to assist the Chinese Nationalist/Kuomintang side.
After three months, the Amethyst would slip her chain and escape down the Yangtze at night. The escape attempt was successful but unfortunately when it came under fire a nearby ship carrying Chinese civilians was hit. For their part, 46 British military personnel were killed.
The Korean War (1950 – 1954)
Like Germany, Korea was a country left divided by the new contours of a bipolar post-World War 2 world. Having been a part of the Empire of Japan before and during the war, Korea was afterwards administered jointly by the Soviets in the north and the Americans the south.
The bipolarity of the emergent Cold War era soon came into play with a communist government taking hold in the north of Korea and a capitalist one in the south. The leaders of both agreed that border between them at the 38th Parallel was not permanent but refused to accept the other as legitimate.
Political disagreement continued and then spilt over into full-blown war when North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel in June of 1950. This triggered a United Nations response with the US as the principle power and other nations, including the UK, in support.
The conflict was complicated by the unofficial support of the North Koreans by the Russians and, in particular, the Communist Chinese. By this point, they had prevailed in a civil war with the capitalist Kuomintang, forcing them into exile off the Chinese mainland in Taiwan.
The conflict was particularly intense politically because on certain occasions it risked triggering what might have been a third world war between the major powers.
Fighting on the ground also became intense, with Chinese forces swarming over UN positions at certain points, including during the Battle of Imjin River. Here, 95 percent of the members of 1 Glosters battalion became casualties, having run out of ammunition and been overwhelmed.
In all, 1,129 British service personnel would lose their lives in the conflict, which ended with an armistice in 1953 and resulted in a division between north and south that exists to this day.
A “Gloster’s” Account Of A First Contact With The Enemy
The Korean War has been described as the Forgotten War by both historians and survivors alike. Part of this is due to the close vicinity it fell in relation to other conflicts, but part of it is due to the fact the war was never won.
During the Korean War, 100,000 servicemen were stationed on the Korean Peninsula in the Far East.
The extract below is from the book ‘The Last Round: The Epic British Stand On The Imjin River, Korea 1951’. Before the passage begins, the book’s author, Andrew Salmon, explains that the men of C Company Gloucestershire Regiment are on their first patrol to the north of Seoul, the capital of today’s South Korea. The terrain is “rugged”, the hills are “steep” …
“The Glosters spread out in tactical formation across the frosty countryside, accompanied by a pair of troop carriers. Passing through a village, Private Green saw his first battle casualty: in a pool of blood, his thigh shattered by a bullet, lay a dying Korean. He had been shot earlier, after being spotted planting a mine near the bridge across a shallow river.”
Green and his platoon are next sent to ensure a nearby hill is clear of enemy soldiers:
“Cresting the rise, they were astonished to see around thirty guerrillas huddling around a fire some twenty yards away. The North Korean rifles, with long, sword-like bayonets, were piled in a heap. Both groups spotted each other at the same instant. Both were equally startled. But it was the British with their weapons at the ready, who reacted first. McKay let rip with his Sten; Green fired and caught a glimpse of the man he had shot – staring, hands in pockets, tunic running blood – as the Gloster dived for a better firing position. The ground gave way underneath him, and Green slid part-way down the hillside, until halted by a straggly bush.”
Down below, Green hears firing continuing on the hill above him, as well as gun fire being unleashed on a nearby platoon from the Glosters. He also hears the screams of a man yelling that his leg was blown off. Eventually …
“The guerrillas fled. A wounded Gloster was lying in the road, his trousers soaked in blood, his leg shattered. A medic sent Green off to find a splint … The Glosters discovered from a prisoner that they had forced a 200-strong guerrilla band into retreat. Green was pleased at his first taste of combat: he now felt himself a seasoned fighter.”
The Berlin Airlift (1948 – 1949)
At the end of the Second World War, Germany was run and occupied by four powers, each with their own zone: the British, the Americans, the French and the Soviet Union. Given the ideological differences between them - namely western, democratic and market-based societies, versus authoritarian and communist in the USSR – a split was almost certainly inevitable. In fact, it was part of a larger ideological battle known as the Cold War that lasted from the late 1940s until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. ‘Cold’ in this instance meant that proxy wars and espionage tended to take the place of a direct military confrontation between the major powers. They were the democratic and capitalist US and western European allies on one side and, in Europe, the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and Communist China elsewhere in Asia.
Ideological as well as historical differences and geography all conspired to amplify Cold War tensions in post-war Germany. The dictator of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, was anxious to avoid another incursion into his country by Germany, having witnessed two in his lifetime, during World Wars 1 and 2. He therefore wanted to keep the territories the Soviet Army had taken up to and including those it held in Germany after it helped defeat it in 1945 as communist states. If this required ‘democracy’ to artificially result in communist leaders, then so be it. In Berlin, for instance, extra measures such as ballot stuffing, intimidation, and the merging of the Communist and Socially Democratic parties were used to bring this about.
France, Britain and the US, on the other hand, used a method of carrot rather than stick, promoting genuine democracy and working to bring about economic stability and prosperity. This provided an alternative to the Soviet approach and helped bolster the case for democracy and capitalism.
Matters were complicated though by the fact that these were the days before the construction of the Berlin Wall, which would not go up until the 1960s. This meant that people could move between the various zones, and encounter both methods of administration and their differing influences and effects.
The situation in Berlin itself was made even more complicated for two reasons. It was both a microcosm for Germany, with French, British, American and Soviet zones, and it also lay 100 miles within the Soviet zone. This made it vulnerable when tensions between the two sides and their contrasting methods of administration became heightened.
The 15-month Berlin Airlift that took place from June 26, 1948 to September 30, 1949 was a response to the Soviets blockading Berlin, which they did in turn as a response to the issuance of a new currency in western Germany. During the war, the German currency had been the Reichsmark, but as can happen in wartime, large government spending had resulted in significant inflation. This meant the prices of everyday goods climbing steeply as more and more Reichsmarks printed by the government chased the same number, or, because of war shortages, fewer goods. The situation was exacerbated by the Soviets overprinting Reichsmarks after the war and the situation had become so bad, and the value of the Reichsmark had dropped so low, that American cigarettes were used as currency. In the west, a new official currency, the Deutschemark, was brought into circulation as a remedy.
When the Stalin cut the road and rail links to Berlin in the response, and refused to reduce the harsh post-war conditions it had imposed on the defeated Germany, this left residents of the city in danger of malnourishment and even starvation. Aircrews from Canada, the US, Britain, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand flew over 200,000 sorties in C-47 and C-54 aircraft to keep the population supplied with food and other essentials. This missions often took place in trying and dangerous circumstances and weather conditions and 26 service personnel from the United Kingdom died in the operation. However, RAF crews in tandem with their American counterparts succeeding in air delivering food, fuel, medical supplies and coal to the people of Berlin. At the operation’s peak, the Airlift saw a supply aircraft land every 30 seconds.
The Balkans (1991 – Present)
The war in the Balkans was caused by ethnic tensions and demographic patterns stretching back to World War 1, and before. As noted in the section on the First World War, this south eastern corner of Europe is located right at the historical juncture of three empires: the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Turkish. It therefore developed as a region with a varied mixture of different South Slavic peoples as well as Muslims all living nearby each other. Separatist ambitions on the part of Serbia led to World War 1 (see above) when the Bosnian-Serb Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
Princip has been widely quoted as having said this at his trial:
"I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be freed from Austria."
The area that would become The Kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War had been incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire before it. When the dissolution of Austria-Hungary occurred in 1918, it then became possible for the Yugoslav state Princip had wanted to be established. Indeed, Yugoslavia meant ‘South Slavic state’ and it was centred around the South Slavic peoples of the region. Wikipedia points out that it is generally believed by scholars that the South Slavs first migrated to the Balkans in the 6th or 7th Centuries from Central and Eastern Europe.
Yet, like the Austro-Hungarian Empire before it, the ingredients for Yugoslavia’s own break up were in place from the outset.
It came under Nazi occupation in World War 2, and then fell into the Soviet orbit after the Second World War. At that point, it was re-established as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As a federation it had two main levels of government, an overarching one on the national level and regional governments within multiple sub-states, or socialist republics.
The layout of these socialist republics within Yugoslavia essentially helped set the fault lines for the war that would break out there in the 1990s.
The reason for this is that although Yugoslavia was based on a common South Slavic identity, independent of Austria-Hungary, there were multiple sub-groups within it.
In the map above, the states that made up the six republics within Yugoslavia are shown. From top to bottom they are: Slovenia (in green), Croatia (in red), Bosnia and Herzegovina (in grey), Serbia (in dark blue), Montenegro (in beige) and Macedonia (in orange.) Serbia itself also had two autonomous provinces within it when Yugoslavia still existed. These were Kosovo in the south, shown in light blue on the map, and Vojvodina in the north of Serbia, which is not shown on the map.
After the Second World War, the different ethnic groups and republics within Yugoslavia were held together by its president, Marshal Tito. However, when he died in 1980, the tensions between these groups came to the surface.
One of the underlying problems was that the distribution of Yugoslavia’s numerous ethnic subgroups did not completely align with the layout of its various states. There were, for instance, Serbians living in Croatia alongside Croats, or, to take another example, Croats and Serbians in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another problem was that while some of the Yugoslav states and peoples wanted to break away, others, in particular Serbia and its leader Slobodan Milošević, wanted to keep Yugoslavia together.
Furthermore, Serbia’s influence within the ruling council that ran Yugoslavia increased significantly, upsetting other parts of Yugoslavia.
This council was known as the Presidency of Yugoslavia, or the Presidium. It was a collective national body led by one of its members, the President of the Presidency, who was selected annually on a rotating basis from amongst its members. These were the leaders of each of the six Yugoslav republics as well as the two autonomous provinces of Serbia - Kosovo and Vojvodina.
In theory, this arrangement should have ensured adequate representation for each part of Yugoslavia. But a series of street protests collectively known as the anti-bureaucratic revolution resulted in the replacement of the leaders of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro with allies of Slobodan Milošević. This resulted in Serbia effectively dominating the Presidium.
While Milošević was driven to use this power to protect the Serbians who lived outside of Serbia itself, other groups and states within Yugoslavia saw this as Serbian hegemony. Yugoslavia began to rupture and come apart as different groups began to assert their independence and break away. It was this struggle between forces of independence versus Serbian-driven unity, as well as various ethnic tensions, that caused the subsequent fighting and informed how it played out.
In addition to the disputes between the South Slavic ethnicities, there was also the aspiration for independence coming from ethnic Albanians living within Kosovo. Albanians are not Slavic.
Religion too became a dividing line along with ethnicity. The 1995 Srebrenica massacre was the largest incidence of mass murder since World War 2 and it prompted widespread calls for a ceasefire. The victims were male Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces. The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić was later charged with war crimes for this and other acts.
British forces were dispatched to the area as part of an international peacekeeping effort in the 1990s. Although the conflict settled down in 2001, British military personnel have continued to serve there, with 72 having been killed since 1992.
For a review of Tim Marshall's book 'Shadowplay' about the Balkans, click here.
The Kenya Emergency (1952 – 1956)
This conflict is also referred to as the Mau Mau Uprising, Mau Mau being another name for the KLFA, the Kenya Land and Freedom Army.
One legacy of the British Empire in Africa was grievances built up over decades about the monopolisation of land by British settlers and the exploitation of native Kenyans. The country’s highlands had remarkably fertile soils, making Kenya well suited to a permanent British colony on the continent of Africa, and British settlers had begun to be established there in 1902. Over the years, land was expropriated (as in, taken away from the native population.) This, along with other policies such as the removal of tenant rights for squatters on settler-owned farms, added to the pool of landless Kenyans available for agricultural labour.
Kenya was also strategically well located for the British, being partway up Africa, thereby giving the British a continuous strip of the continent running from Egypt down to what would become South Africa.
The rebellion that began against British colonial rule, and that officially triggered the war when the British sent in troops in 1952, disproportionately came out of the Kikuyu subpopulation within Kenya. This ethnic group was overly represented amongst the Mau Mau and in the hilly communities where the farmland was based, and they bore the brunt of the fighting.
In ‘Histories of the Hanged’, David Anderson points out that while the war was a rebellion against British colonial rule, it also had elements that made it look like a civil war. This is because Mau Mau fighters ended up killing other Kenyans who were on the side of the British, and in far greater numbers than they killed white settlers or even British troops, 86 of whom died in the conflict. He puts the estimate of the number of civilians killed by Mau Mau fighters at 1,800, and the deaths of Mau Mau fighters themselves at more than 20,000, including more than 1,000 executed towards the end of the war.
The Mau Mau fighters were effectively defeated by the end of 1956, although the aftermath of the war, such as trails and then the transition to independence, continued until 1960.
While all wars are brutal, the Kenya Emergency is noted for having been particularly so. Anderson says:
“It is a story of atrocity and excess on both sides, a dirty war from which no one emerged with much pride, and certainly no glory.”
As with the Malaya Emergency, the British strategy was to drive Mau Mau fighters out of urban areas and into the forests, then to cordon off and control local villages. Part of this strategy involved the construction of internment camps (that have also been referred to as concentration camps), within which it was later alleged and acknowledged war crimes were committed.
Any war can of course lead to and generate accusations of war crimes. The Wikipedia page on British war crimes, for instance, lists Malaya, Kenya and the overall War on Terror campaign as post-World War 2 conflicts in which allegations and the occurrence of such abuses have taken place. The Kenya Emergency though has generated very large numbers of allegations about widespread human rights abuses. One of those who was mistreated was Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of the former US president.
In 2013, the British government acknowledged the occurrence of human rights abuses during the conflict, with Foreign Secretary William Hague saying that widespread violence was perpetrated by both sides. The government agreed to pay compensation to over 5,000 victims and to help support the construction of a memorial in Nairobi, though Hague also said that the government continued to “deny liability on behalf of the Government and British taxpayers today for the actions of the colonial administration (in Kenya) … “.
The Congo (1960 – 1964)
The Congo Crisis, a period of instability and civil wars, arose within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) days after it had gained its independence from Belgium in 1960. Belgium had fallen under the colonial control of the Belgian king Leopold II in the late 19th Century, just as much of Africa was being colonised by European powers at this time. (For more on this, click here).
The Congo Crisis lasted for four years and took the lives of 100,000 people, including Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba.
One key driver of the chaos and violence was the secession, or attempted secession (i.e. breaking away), of portions of the country called South Kasai and the mineral-rich southernmost province of Katanga. This seceded from the DRC with the support of Belgium.
President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba asked for and received a peacekeeping force from the United Nations – the ONUC (United Nations Operation in Congo.) British troops were deployed as part of this mission and two of them lost their lives during the conflict.
The crisis also took on elements of the larger Cold War going on at the time, since Prime Minister Lumumba turned to the Soviets for help with the secessionist territories when the US and UN refused him.
This put him at odds with the capitalist powers of the West and with the Congolese Army Chief of Staff Joseph Mobutu. He would overthrow and arrest Lumumba in a coup in 1961, later arranging for his killing which was carried out by Katanga rebels with the assistance of Belgian officers.
The crisis ended in 1965 when Mobutu enacted a second coup d’état, this time removing Congolese President Kasavubu. Mobutu would set up a one-party dictatorship, controlling the nation until his death in 1997.
Rhodesia (1979 – 1980)
British Armed Forces’ involvement in Rhodesia came about after 15 years of civil war between three parties: the Rhodesian (white) government, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army.
In a summit held at Lancaster House in London in December 1979, resulting in the Lancaster House Agreement, it was decided Britain would temporarily assume rule of the territory while elections could be carried out to determine a democratic way forward for the nation. This led to the creation of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe as its president.
The British troops involved in Zimbabwe formed part of a Commonwealth Monitoring Force and their mission there was called Operation Agila.
1,500 Peacekeepers made up the Commonwealth Monitoring Force. This included 150 Australians, 22 Fijians, 50 Kenyans, and 75 New Zealanders.
Britain provided 800 soldiers, 300 Royal Air Force personnel and a detachment of Royal Marines. Additionally, the Royal Navy contributed Doctors.
During the deployment, five British servicemen lost their lives.
The Sierra Leone Civil War (2000 – 2002)
Sierra Leone in 1999 was in an almost apocalyptic state. Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were roaming the country - child soldiers and amputations their brutal trademarks.
Under the now Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, British troops intervened in May 2000 and an initial plan to evacuate citizens from Freetown developed into something much more. Two years later, largely thanks to British and UN intervention, Sierra Leone was at peace. However, it came at a deadly cost.
The West African state of Sierra Leone ought to have been one of the richest in Africa. Instead, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Diamond fields lay under the control of the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel army led by their founder, Foday Sankoh. Their riches were smuggled out through neighbouring countries.
Rebel strong holds were supposed to be given up to the Government after the 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement but fighting started again in May 2000 when UN troops attempted to disarm rebels near the mines.
A crisis point was reached when around 500 peacekeepers were taken hostage and rebel forces stood poised to enter the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone, Freetown.
This prompted the British government to send paratroopers to Freetown in 2000 with a seemingly simple task - secure the airport and get British citizens out of the city before the RUF rebels invaded and leave. They were meant to stay for no more than 10 days and then leave Sierra Leone to its fate.
However, what former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Lord David Richards, witnessed in his role as Joint Task Force Commander in Sierra Leone was a brutality that, he felt, left him no option but to act. The vicious act of hacking off the limbs of men, women and children was the signature act of violence favoured by the rebels. They also drugged children and forced them to become fighters.
Gen Lord Richards took personal command of the war and set out to defeat the rebel forces, which he did. He said:
"I’m relaxed that we are not into mission creep, we’re doing what is pragmatic while we’re here to ensure the situation is stabilised and the UN can go forward.”
At one point, some of the rebels turned on four UN military observers - three British soldiers and a New Zealand Officer - effectively trapping them in a house. After several days of fierce fighting the men managed to escape through the jungle, desperately hungry and thirsty. At the time, one of those soldiers, Royal Marine Major Phil Ashby, said:
“They were certainly looting, raping and pillaging round the town and every time they got new material gains, they would celebrate by coming and taking a few pot shots at us.
“In addition, they were, over a period of days, capturing more and more UN weapons and kit from a number of different sources and each time they’d get them essentially they’d test fire them at us.”
Six weeks later, the British taskforce withdrew, and Operation Basilica began. It was a race against time for 2 Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment to teach the Sierra Leone Army to take the fight to the rebels. By this point the UN had more than 12,000 troops in theatre.
Today the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is largely based on British military models and locals live among the training area and trust the soldiers, a far cry from life during the civil war.
Five UK armed forces personnel died during the fight against rebel forces in Sierra Leone, one of which was due to hostile action. In addition, hundreds of men were witnesses to the bleak horrors of the civil war. The rebels were ruthless, cutting limbs off children as young as six-months-old, as witnessed by journalist Janine di Giovanni. In ‘Sierra Leone, 2000: A Case History in Successful Interventionism’ written in The New York Review, she said:
“At an MSF hospital in Freetown, I held a gurgling six-month-old baby who had had one tiny arm chopped off at the elbow.
“The doctors there worked without electricity and anesthesia and amid puddles of congealing blood.”
And An RAF Serviceman Who Lost His Life
A coup d’etat against Libya’s King Idris was staged in September 1969. Its leader was a man who would later be known worldwide as Colonel Gaddafi.
With King Idris exiled to Egypt, Gaddafi abolished the monarchy and announced that the state would now be called the Libyan Arab Republic.
The dictator ruled Libya with a ruthless grip for more than 40 years. His regime was behind the 1984 killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher in London and Gaddafi was accused of backing the Lockerbie bombing on December 21, 1988. Both of these inevitably led to increased tensions with the West.
In 1992, after the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, UN sanctions were imposed. Gaddafi resisted complying with the requirements which led to Libya's political and economic isolation for the majority of the 1990s.
In February 2011, demonstrations against Colonel Gadaffi’s regime flared as part of the Arab Spring protests that year. Gadaffi cracked down on protestors, vowing to fight until his last drop of blood.
RAF fighter planes deployed to the Mediterranean from where Britain’s military action, codenamed Operation Ellamy (part of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector), was launched. Submarines fired Tomahawk missiles and HMS Cumberland changed course whilst on route home from The Gulf to ferry people fleeing Libya in three humanitarian evacuation voyages.
After a month, Cumberland was relieved by HMS Liverpool which patroled the waters and enforced the arms embargo. She was then relieved by destroyer HMS York.
A fleet of RAF Typhoons and Tornado GR4 aircraft flew missions from Gioia del Colle Air Base in Italy, dropping Paveway and Brimstone bombs in almost daily sorties. VC10 and TriStars based in Sicily and the UK undertook air-to-air refuelling tasks while the RAF's Sentry and Sentinel surveillance aircrafts spied in the skies.
Three months into the campaign, HMS Ocean deployed to the area with four Apache attack helicopters on board. It was the first time the gunships had demonstrated their capability from a floating platform, aiming their Hellfire missiles from lower altitudes for greater precision in order to minimalize civilian collateral damage.
Gaddafi was captured and killed on October 20, 2011 during the Battle of Sirte. The former dictator was discovered hiding in a large drainage pipe and captured by National Transitional Council forces. He was beaten by rebel fighters while he pled for his life and eventually killed by gunshot.
His body was then publicly displayed in a meat freezer for three days. Speaking to Reuters news agency, Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni said:
"I told them to keep it in the freezer for a few days ... to make sure that everybody knows he is dead."
Libyans celebrated as the new leadership formally declared the country liberated after 42 years under the rule of Gaddafi.
Thousands were killed during the conflict. One of those deaths was SAC James Smart from No. 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron, RAF, who died in a road traffic accident in southern Italy on the afternoon of July 20, 2011. The accident happened in the Abruzzo region where he was driving the lead vehicle in a logistics convoy travelling to Italian air bases to resupply UK forces supporting Op Ellamy.
SAC Smart was due to receive his Operation Herrick medal from the Station Commander at RAF Wittering at a medal ceremony to be held just days later on August 1, 2011.
The family of SAC Smart said ‘Smarty’, as he was affectionately known, was a “small man with a big heart, no one could have had a better son”. They went on to say:
“He was a much-loved brother, uncle and friend. He brought joy and happiness to everyone who met him. He was proud to serve his country and died doing something he loved.”
Group Captain Richard Hill, Officer Commanding Royal Air Force Wittering, said:
“SAC Smart … was a dedicated and exceptionally hard-working airman. He was always keen to get ‘stuck in’, whilst continually wishing to advance his trade skills.
“There is no doubt that he had a promising career ahead of him in the Royal Air Force.”
For Britain's Armed Forces, October 31, 2011, marked the end of more than seven months of intensive operations. Gaddafi’s Green flag was symbolically burned in the street while the old flag, reinstated by Libya’s National Transitional Council, was raised once more over the city.
Malawi (2019 – Present)
And Remembering A Soldier Killed There
British soldiers have been in Malawi’s national parks since September 2019 on Operation Corded. This was established to help rangers combat the illegal ivory trade by using skills learnt with the British Army including tracking, mapping and intelligence gathering.
The aim is to stop poachers killing African elephants and the black rhinoceros, some of the world’s most endangered species. The British Army is playing a significant role in keeping these endangered animals safe for future generations.
Tragically, on May 5, 2019, Guardsman Mathew Talbot, 22, of 1 Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed by an elephant, one of the animals he was trying to protect.
Malawi was Gdsm Talbot's first operational deployment working as a Counter Poaching Operator. He volunteered to deploy in support of Op Corded after having taken part in Exercise Askari Storm in Kenya the previous year. He was also able to explore his passion for photography while in Malawi.
Prior to serving with 1 Battalion Coldstream Guards, Gdsm Talbot was posted to Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards in London conducting ceremonial duties.
During his time in Malawi, Gdsm Talbot had quickly built a rapport with local people and learned their language. He had also been learning Nepali after becoming friends with Gurkhas attached to the counter poaching team.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ed Launders said he was "honoured" to have served alongside Gdsm Talbot and that the soldier's "humour, selflessness and unbeatable spirit" will be missed. And Platoon Commander Lt Hugo Cazalet said “proud brummie” Gdsm Talbot had a strong work ethic and would always consider the needs of his team before his own. He said:
“He was a constant source of morale, even in the direst situations and his infectious humour ensured that his team were constantly smiling too.”
The Duke of Sussex honoured Gdsm Talbot’s sacrifice in September 2019 while visiting British soldiers deployed alongside local rangers in the Liwonde National Park on Op Corded. Troops from 2 Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles formed up beside the memorial to Guardsman Mathew Talbot as Prince Harry laid a wreath at the memorial with his own handwritten message. Prince Harry took a plaque commissioned by his family for the memorial out with him to Africa.
Cyprus (1955 – 1959)
The British acquired Cyprus from Turkey as a protectorate in 1878 and British rule on the island lasted for 82 years. Cyprus became a full crown colony in 1925. Two sovereign military bases remain on the island until this day.
Leading up to the 1950s, dissatisfaction with colonial rule was rising. The population of 550,000 was 80 per cent Greek Cypriot and 18 per cent Turkish Cypriot, with smaller minorities of Maronites and Armenians. An overwhelming majority was calling for Enosis, union with Greece. In a referendum organised by the Orthodox Church in 1950 and boycotted by the Turkish minority, 95.7 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted to be united with Greece. The British, not wishing to compromise on sovereignty, ignored the referendum. This resulted in armed rebellion.
On 1 April, 1955, the Greek insurgents of EOKA, the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, began a campaign of armed resistance to British rule. The island was, and remains, strategically important to Britain. The determination to retain control and put down the rebellion was high. A military governor was appointed and strict emergency measures were introduced including the death sentence for bearing arms, detention without trail and severe press censorship.
A military campaign was mounted against the EOKA fighters. The majority of the population supported the EOKA fighters, led by Colonel Grivas. However, the number of hard core fighters never amounted to more than 200 men. The balance of forces was mismatched, as troops from Britain poured into the island, until they numbered 35,000. At the height of the campaign, 19 major units were actively engaged.
According to Martin Bell, who served as a conscripted soldier in Cyprus at the time:
“The Cyprus emergency was equally a part of the retreat from Empire, but we did not know that at the time. It was the Army’s defining commitment and point of main effort. It was, in military terms, the place to be … and one after another the drafts of new recruits were flown out to join it after basic training in Bury St Edmunds.”
Over the course of what is also known as The Cypriot War of Independence (which lasted for four years), the British loses amounted to 358 deaths.
The conflict resulted in Cypriot independence after the signing of the London-Zürich Agreements in 1959. Cyprus was not united with Greece and Britain retaining control of two Sovereign Base Areas, at Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
In January, 2019, following the declassification of colonial documents, the British government agreed to pay £1 million to a total of 33 Cypriots who were allegedly tortured by the British forces during the uprising.
Cyprus (1963 – 1964)
Since Cyprus gained its independence from the UK in 1960, tension on the island between the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot minority had been rising.
The new constitution was a point of grievance with the Greek Cypriots who felt it was unjust and disproportionally skewed in favour of the Turkish Cypriots. As the indigenous and majority population on the island, Greek Cypriots paid 94 per cent of the taxes. On the other side of the equation, the new constitution gave 30 per cent of the government jobs and 40 per cent of the national security jobs to the Turkish Cypriot community.
On November 30, 1963, Greek Cypriot President Makarios made 13 proposals for amending the constitution that would resolve most of issues in favour of the Greek Cypriots community.
A month later, fighting broke out between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and Turkey threatened to intervene while Britain offered to play a peacekeeping role.
A highly precarious ceasefire agreement was reached and British troops moved out of the British Sovereign Base Areas on the island and began patrolling under the command of Maj.-Gen. P.G.F. Young. A “buffer zone” was created in the capital. The border between the two sides of the city became known as the “Green Line” after a British officer drew a line across the map of the island with green ink.
Despite 2,700 British soldiers helping to enforce the ceasefire, fighting continued for several weeks. The violence took the lives of 174 Greek Cypriots and 364 Turkish Cypriots. The British military, meanwhile, sustained nine deaths.
Cyprus (1964 – Present)
In January 1964, Britain pushed for her peacekeeping role in Cyprus to be taken over by a NATO-linked force. However, President Makarios strongly opposed the idea and the suggestion was abandoned. Britain remained in command of the Joint Peacekeeping Force with Maj.-Gen. R.M.P. Carver assuming command in place of Young.
After Britain called for an early meeting of the Security Council, a recommendation for the creation of a UN peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) was put forward. The initial plan was for it to last three months - it is still in place today.
The UK has been among the top 10 contributing countries to UNFICYP. Over the past 56 years, the mission has sustained 183 fatalities, 4 of those being British.
A large part of the reason for the continued need and use of the UNFICYP is the fact that tensions between the Greek and Turkish sides became particularly inflamed in 1974. This in turn altered the situation on the island with consequences that last until the present day.
To begin with, a coup by a Greek military junta led to President Makarios being overthrown in July of that year. The junta wanted enosis, the unification of Cyprus with Greece. This policy had always been opposed by the Turkish side which did not want enosis without takism, the partition of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish portions.
The establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 meant that neither of these two scenarios came to pass. However, the 1974 coup threatened to change that, and the Turkish response did in turn lead to an unofficial division on the island. This came about after Turkey invaded Cyprus in July and August with the aim of protecting Turkish Cypriots.
After the fighting settled down, the island ended up divided between a majority Turkish-Cypriot north east and a majority Greek-Cypriot south west, with a buffer zone in between. This would continue to be patrolled by UN peacekeepers and it even ran through the city of Nicosia, the capital of both the Turkish and Greek sides of the island. Furthermore, the Turkish portion declared independence in 1983, and was rebranded as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (or TRNC.) However, Turkey is the only country to have ever formally recognised the TRNC diplomatically and the unofficial but de facto partition of Cyprus remains.
The Arabian Peninsula (1957 – 1960)
This conflict arose in what today is Oman and at the time was the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman (a Sultanate being an Islamic state ruled over by a sultan.) Like British involvement in the Sultanate of Brunei (see the section on Southeast Asia), Britain’s involvement in Oman first began as part of its larger imperial project in the region - Oman is located near India. The association between Oman and Britain was first officially established with a Treaty of Friendship signed in 1798. Like Brunei, the territory also then became a protectorate in the late 19th Century, and oil would later be discovered in Oman too.
In fact, it was the discovery of oil there, in 1954, that started the conflict in which British forces would become involved.
Oil had already been found elsewhere in the country but in 1954 it was discovered within an interior region of the country known as the Imamate of Oman. This was under the jurisdiction of its iman, at that point a man called Ghalib bin Ali. The dispute over control of the region flared into violence when the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, at that point Said bin Taimur, launched attacks with the backing of the British, who, as noted, already had an affiliation with him.
This conflict was known as the Jebel Akhdar War and it flared up again in 1957, at which point British support was increased. Wikipedia points out that this stage of the conflict was decisively swung towards the Sultan by the involvement and use of the SAS, 1 Cameronians, armoured cars, the RAF and a troop from 15/19 Hussars. 80 British service personnel would lose their lives in the war, according to MoD figures.
Fighting was brought to a close in 1959 and British military involvement in the territory continued right afterwards until 1960.
The Aden Emergency (1964 - 1967)
Also known as the Radfan Uprising, this conflict took place from 1963 to 1967 and started out as an attack on British officials in Yemen in December of 1963 and the British responding soon afterwards.
The reasons for the conflict and British involvement in it stretch back to Britain’s involvement in the region because of India. As with neighbouring present-day Oman, what today is Yemen first came under British control in the 19th Century as an extension of Britain’s imperial involvement with India. Royal Marines first landed and established a port at Aden on the south coast of Yemen in 1839. It was to be used to supply ships travelling to India and to discourage piracy in the area, and its role continued in this vein, with it becoming a coaling station British ships in later years.
From there British control and influence spread into some of the interior of what is modern-day Yemen as they established the Aden Protectorate, consolidating their control of the port. The importance of the port and the protectorate more generally increased with the opening of the Suez Canal to the north in 1869, which then allowed sea traffic to pass directly from the Mediterranean down past Aden and onto India and Asia beyond.
The fighting consisted of a guerrilla war against both British civilian and military targets, the rebels being inspired by the pan-Arab nationalism and independence movement headed by Egypt’s President Nasser. The campaign eventually pressured the British into leaving the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula earlier than they had planned, and one of the rebel groups, the NLF (National Liberation Front) took power and the People’s Republic of South Yemen was established.
Wikipedia puts the number of British military deaths in the campaign at around 90, though the MoD has a much higher figure. They give a total of 198 British military deaths, 180 of whom died in the main campaign, and 18 of whom they attribute to a separate revolt within the overall war. This was reputedly started by British interference, through the Federation of South Arabia, with the collection of tolls from camel caravans, something that had been an important source of income to local tribes.
The Dhofar Rebellion (1969 – 1976)
A sequel to the Jebel Akhdar War that took place in the south of the Arabian peninsula (now Oman) between 1957 and 1960, the Dhofar Rebellion sprung out of unresolved issues from that prior conflict.
Rebels from Dhofar, Oman’s largest province, had a number of disagreements with the Sultan of the country who was backed by the British, not least the poverty that occurred under his rule. They rose up against him again in the late 1960s and British military support was again supplied to the Sultan, who at that point was still Said bin Taimur.
The difference between this conflict and its predecessor is that in the intervening years complaints that British terms after the first war had further cemented British control of Oman had made their way to the UN. The body had concluded Britain was being imperialistic but there was no way to remove the British militarily at that time. But by 1970, with the new conflict under way, the British concluded that the grievances voiced by the rebels must be addressed and, furthermore, that the current Sultan was a liability politically.
As James Tarik Marriott explains in ‘History Today’:
“ … the British government realised that military suppression could not by itself legitimise the sultan. Some form of development and state formation would need to follow … fearing the popularity of the revolutionary forces and the ineptitude of the sultan, (the British) devised a coup to save the sultanate as a political institution, a power Britain had spent centuries fostering.”
So the British backed the Sultan’s son Qaboos, who replaced his father as ruler in 1970. With British and Iranian backing, as well as the enactment of some progressive reforms, the new Sultan remained in power and the rebels were again defeated. In all, Britain suffered 26 military deaths between the start of the campaign and 1976.
15. The Falklands
The Falklands War (1982)
The original discovery and colonisation of the islands is disputed, though Wikipedia notes that the first officially recorded landing on the islands by Europeans occurred in 1690. It was an English captain named John Strong who is credited with having first set foot on the islands.
Britain as well as France would both go on to establish the first settlements on the islands in the 1760s, with the French colony passing to the Spanish.
Both the British and the Spanish later left the islands and the Argentines claimed them in the interim, before the British returned in 1833. The garrison the Argentines had installed there had been consumed in a mutiny.
The British would then leave again, after having reasserting Britain’s right to control the islands and to the chagrin of the Argentine government.
They had previously granted the German-born merchant Luis Vernet the right to engage in fishing and wild cattle herding on and around the island. Now, Vernet’s deputy, the Scotsman Matthew Brisbane, returned to the islands, but he and other senior leaders on the islands were murdered by and Argentine named Antonio Rivero and others angry about the conditions at the settlement, Port Louis. The British re-established order on the islands when they came back again, this time making the islands an official Crown Colony in 1840.
By 1982, Falkland Islanders were the descendants of British settlers there and had made their desire to stay British known when disputes about possession of the islands continued to come up. Argentina had never been happy with British control of the islands and although Britain had considered giving the islands over to Argentina, the desire of the Falkland Islanders to remain British prevented this.
The dispute between Argentina and Britain over the islands continued into the early 1980s when, in 1982, Argentina opted to invade and occupy the islands. This triggered a British response that led to a 10-week war in which 237 British service personnel died. For more on a book about how the Parachute Regiment experienced the conflict, including the death of one of its members, read about ‘Our Boys’ by Helen Parr here. And click here and here for a two-part article about the memories of a veteran of the Falklands conflict.
Your Words Of Remembrance
We are united in our thoughts, quiet contemplation, respect, as we observe Remembrance.
This year we may not be able to gather together to pay our respects to the fallen, as public events will not take place in line with restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic, but we will still observe a silence, perhaps on our doorsteps, or in our own homes, and we can still share our thoughts as we pay our respects online.
Here, we share some of the Words of Remembrance submitted by our community.
The following are a collection of thoughts and reflections sent to us after we asked the Armed Forces and wider military community to join us in a virtual Remembrance so that we remember the fallen, together, online.
Some of the submissions come in the form of poems, some in emotive quotes, some are reflections on lost comrades or loved ones – however, or whoever, our community wanted to observe a virtual Remembrance in their own words.
To make sure the military community still has a space to join together, BFBS invited you to participate in an act of virtual remembrance by sharing your own ‘words of remembrance’ with us.
In Your Words:
Padre Gary submitted a poem that was written a year ago for the 100th anniversary of the commemoration of Armistice Day, originally set to recall the end of hostilities of The First World War, but the words are as relevant today.
Who were the ones who a century past
Gave up their rights and to the last did offer Up themselves to stand
Beside the stranger
Hand in hand.
Who were the ones who fell in field,
Left to die in mud and yield their lives for sake of freedoms fight,
To turn the darkness into light.
Who were the ones who thought it right
Against Injustice to stand and fight the evil of the oppressor’s hand
On foreign soil in far away land.
Who were the ones who fought the foe,
Who sacrificed their very lives so when at last their war would cease,
It would buy for us the gift of peace.
Who were the ones who throughout the years
Have continued to go despite their fears to offer hope amidst despair
Others’ lives put first before thinking of theirs.
Who were the ones who give their all,
That we might live free lives though small and insignificant we may feel,
Their sacrifice for us was real.
Whoever they were we stand to remember
Giving thanks to God for them each November,
Their stories must always be told,
Even though they grow not old.
Gary Birch, Chaplain to 1PWRR & Dhekelia Station, Cyprus, wrote:
For those who have gone before,
For those who waited at home,
For those who currently stand the line,
For those who support them through time,
For those who will take the torch,
For those who taught them honour,
Our Words of Remembrance reaches out across Allied Armed Forces with this submission from the United States of America.
George A. Bulgin, Machinist Mate 3rd class/E-4, US Navy 1985-1990, wrote:
“My wife and I visited London, England and Bayeaux, France for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.
“We were welcomed by all. We were so humbled by all that we saw. We shall never forget; always remember.
Tom Marshall sent us Reflections from Brunei 2020 as he remembers not only members of his family but others who serve:
Hi, I’m Tom Marshall living here in steamy Brunei and on the run up to this perhaps the most difficult of remembrance days it is even more important this year that we reflect on the sacrifices that have been made and are still is being made by our service men and women around the world to keep us safe.
So, it’s with pride I remember not only those members of my family who made the ultimate sacrifice but those who served and survived.
Firstly, my Great Uncle John Chadwick who served with the Machine Gun Corp and was killed on the 18th September 1918 aged 19.
My Great Grandfather Archibald Bulloch who served in the Merchant Navy from 1913 to 1919.
My Great Uncle Samuel Chadwick and other members of our family who served in the Far East from 1940 until their liberation.
My Uncle Harry Randles who as a national serviceman and saw action in Egypt, Aden and Malaysia
Last but not least Douglas Halliday 1 Mercian (The Cheshire’s) killed in Helmand 23rd June 2010 aged just 20.
We will remember them.
Paul Rees. Ex RUCGC, remembers a friend with whom he served and who was among nine Royal Ulster Constabulary officers who died when the IRA launched a series of mortar bombs at Newry police station in Northern Ireland on February 28, 1985. He said: “
“My main memory involves RUC officer Rosemary McGookin,” adding: “
“I served with Rosemary in Lisburn. Whenever I was on SDO, Station Duty Officer, she would always bring me a coffee and a packet of Rolos. She was a wonderful friend and an excellent police officer. Sorely missed.
Hannah Nevett sent us memories of her Great Grandfather, Arthur Nevett:
“My name is Hannah and I would like to share my story of my Great Grandfather, Arthur Nevett, who died on HMS Hood on 24th May 1941.
“He joined the Royal Navy in 1916, aged 15. He started off as a Boy Second Class and later that year joined the Signals Branch.
“In the late WWI he served on HMS Thunderer and was awarded the Victory and British War medals.
“After WWI he continued to serve with the Royal Navy and became Leading Signalman. On 2 June 1939 he was drafted on HMS Hood and later became Yeoman of Signals.
“Sadly Arthur was one of the 1,415 who lost their lives when the Hood sank during the Battle of Denmark Strait.
“Arthur had a son, who was named after him, who also joined the Royal Navy, as Ordinary Seaman. Sadly, like his father, he lost his life aged 19 whilst serving on HMS Dunedin, a Danae class light cruiser, when it was struck by torpedoes from a German submarine. Just six months after his fathers death.
“While I know very little about them, I believe that Arthur Nevett was a brave man, who was committed to his job, a friend to everyone and always capable of remaining calm in an intense situation. I like to believe that his son was just as dedicated and brave as he was.
“Today I carry on the family tradition of joining the Royal Navy, as my father did. I am a Reservist of HMS Cambria and I am proud of the goals I have achieved so far. I hope that Arthur and his son are just as proud of me and my commitment with the Royal Navy.
“Every year I pay my respects to Arthur, his son and all of those who had lost their lives on HMS Hood and HMS Dunedin.
“May they all be remembered.”
Professor Victor Newman Knowledge & Innovation Leadership The Business School, The University of Greenwich, wrote simple but emotive thoughts for Remembrance:
“A few words for Remembrance
"All our our love, in exchange for all your courage".
JP Jacob wrote a poem for Remembrance:
Once again, we would meet.
To remember those, we did not forget.
A poppy on, yet an empty seat.
To cherish the lives of the brave unmet.
Lest we forget, in our memory.
Always remembered, everyone.
The cries, the laughs, and the stories.
Of yet another soldier down.
A soldier who had a story.
Whom very few heard about.
Thinking of home and family.
Midst the gunfire burning out.
Years move on, and so they grow.
To rejoice their youth once again.
Old of age, another cross in a row.
Though they're gone, their presence remains
Pradeep Shahi, Writer/Director for upcoming feature film Gurkha: Beneath The Bravery, wrote to honour his forefathers with these Words of Remembrance:
“From the foothills of the Himalayas came these legendary Gurkhas, men of valour, in a land of the unknown, engulfed in war and destruction.
“Thousands perished in these unknown lands, never to return home.
“They did not seek poems nor were they wishing for songs of tribute, but, a world with a better tomorrow.
“May we remember them for their service and sacrifice.”
- Gurkha Beneath The Bravery Team