139 British military interventions overseas since 1945

The Royal Air Force’s bombardment of Syria beginning on 3 December 2015 is the 139th separate British military intervention abroad since the end of the Second World War and the 50th British military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa in the same period. These are overseas interventions that the British state acknowledges. Not included in the 139 are covert excursions whose records are not available. 1968 was the only year since the end of the Second World War when British military personnel were not killed on active service.

British overseas assets reached £10.17 trillion at the end of 2014, equivalent to nearly 6 times Britain’s GDP. Almost two thirds of these assets are formed of bank loans and deposits and financial derivatives; these are the features of a decaying and parasitic capitalism that is predatory and aggressive. The record of British monopoly capitalism’s foreign policy is one of near constant war, millions of deaths and broken lives - the Union Flag atop a mountain of corpses.

The sequence of British governments has been 1945-51 Labour, 1951-64 Conservative, 1964-70 Labour, 1970-74 Conservative, 1974-79 Labour, 1979-97 Conservative, 1997-2010 Labour, 2010-15 Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, 2015 Conservative. Be they Labour or Conservative governments they have demonstrated a readiness to deploy armed force in defence of British imperialism’s interests. To the British left we say New Labour = Old Labour, the Labour Party is a war party.

‘The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilisation lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked’ - Karl Marx.

1) 1945-46 Java Restoring Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia.
2) 1945-47 Italy Occupation army. Clashed with Yugoslav partisans around Trieste.
3) 1945-52 Japan Occupation army.
4) 1945-55 Germany Occupation army.
5) 1945-89 West Germany and West Berlin British soldiers patrolled the borders.
6) 1945-55 Austria Occupation army. On 8 May 1945 the end of World War II was signed in Europe and on that day British soldiers clashed with Yugoslav partisans over disputed territory, opening the Cold War.
7) 1945-46 Indo-China Restoring French colonial rule.
8) 1945-48 Partition of India.
9) 1945-48 Palestine Reinforce British occupation army until the end of the mandate.
10) 1945-48 Greece Participation in civil war against the communists.
11) 1946 Albania Royal Navy challenges the Albanian government for control of the straights between the mainland and Corfu.
12) 1946 Iran Counter Soviet influence and Kurdish and Azerbaijani republics.
13) 1947 Aden Suppression of civil disturbances.
14) 1948-49 Germany The Berlin airlift.
15) 1948 Gold Coast (Ghana) Suppression of riots.
16) 1948 British Honduras (Belize) Threat of Guatemalan invasion.
17) 1948–60 Malaya Suppression of Communist–led struggle. 350 British soldiers and 159 Gurkhas killed, with 6,710 communists confirmed dead and another 1,000 dead from starvation and illness due to the British strategy. The British Labour government banned several trade unions and imprisoned trade unionists. A 1970 Scotland Yard investigation into the massacre of 24 villagers at Batang Kali was halted by the Conservative government.
18) 1948-49 Somalia Prevent re-unification of the country and maintain protectorate.
19) 1948-51 Eritrea Suppression of the Shifta revolt.
20) 1949 China River Yangste incident between the Royal Navy and the People’s Liberation Army.
21) 1950 Singapore Suppression of ‘Hartog riots’.
22) 1950-53 Korea The Korean war with four million Koreans killed at a cost to the British of 749 British soldiers dead.
23) 1951 Iran Aqaba Iranian oil nationalistion.
24) 1951-54 Suez Canal Zone.
25) 1952-56 Kenya Suppression of the Mau Mau revolt. 11,500 Mau Mau were killed and 1,016 Kenyans were executed for breeching the emergency regulations. Just 12 British soldiers died.
26) 1952 Monte Bello island (Bikini atoll) First British atomic bomb test.
27) 1953 British Guiana (Guyana) Constitutional crisis British coup against the elected socialist government of Cheddi Jagan.
28) 1954–83 Cyprus Suppression of EOKA and occupation.
29) 1954 Egypt Intervention on the Nile.
30) 1955 Singapore Suppression of riots.
31) 1955 Buraimi Oasis Preventing incursion from Saudi Arabia and its allies.
32) 1955-60 Yemen border incidents.
33) 1956 Bahrain Suppression of riots.
34) 1956 Hong Kong Suppression of riots.
35) 1956 Singapore Suppression of riots.
36) 1956 Egypt Suez crisis and invasion.
37) 1957-59 Muscat and Oman Suppression of resistance struggle.
38) 1957 British Honduras (Belize) Threat of invasion from Guatemala.
39) 1958 Nassau (Bahamas) General strike.
40) 1958 Iraq Military coup ousts King Faisal II.
41) 1958 Jordan Military assistance to regime following Iraq coup.
42) 1958 Kuwait Iraqi General Qasim claims Kuwait is part of Iraq.
43) 1958 Lebanon Attempt to bolster Pro-western Christian government.
44) 1958 Nyasaland (Malawi) Suppression of riots.
45) 1958 North Atlantic ‘Cod war I’ Iceland extends territorial waters from four to 12 miles.
46) 1959 Gan (Maldives) Suppression of riots.
47) 1960 Jamaica Suppression of Rastafarian uprising.
48) 1960-61 Cameroons Aid to the government.
49) 1961 Kuwait Prevention of Iraqi incursion.
50) 1961 Zanzibar (Tanzania) Suppression of revolt.
51) 1961 British Honduras (Belize) Impose order after Hurricane Hattie.
52) 1962-70 Yemen Civil war Britain sided with Royalists. 200,000 Yemenis killed.
53) 1962 British Honduras (Belize) Suppression of Belize Freedom Fighters.
54) 1962 British Guiana (Guyana) Suppression of Georgetown riots.
55) 1962 Brunei Suppression of revolt.
56) 1962-66 Malaysia Confrontation with Indonesia.
57) 1962-75 Vietnam Support of US war (see FRFI 196 April/May 2007).
58) 1963-66 Borneo Counter-revolutionary intervention. British Labour defence minister Dennis Healey said that the Borneo campaign would be recorded ‘in the history books…as one of the most efficient uses of military force in the history of the world’. Total British and Commonwealth forces dead were 114 with considerably more than 600 Indonesians killed.
59) 1963-67 Aden Attempted suppression of socialist-led national liberation struggle.
60) 1963-64 British Guiana (Guyana) Suppression of riots and enforcement of State of Emergency against the elected socialist government of Cheddi Jagan.
61) 1963 Swaziland Reinforcements sent to cover period of strike.
62) 1963 Zanzibar (Tanzania) Preparations for election.
63) 1964 Yemen Radfan campaign against socialist-led revolutionaries.
64) 1964 Zanzibar (Tanzania) Suppression of revolt.
65) 1964 Tanganyika (Tanzania) Army mutiny.
66) 1964 Uganda Army mutiny.
67) 1964 Kenya Army mutiny.
68) 1964 British Guiana (Guyana) Communal riots.
69) 1965 Mauritius Suppression of riots.
70) 1965 Bechuanaland (Botswana) Guarding the BBC’s Francistown radio station.
71) 1966 Indonesia British Special Forces participate in coup which results in approximately one million people killed, many of them communists and communist supporters.
72) 1966 Honk Kong Suppression of riots.
73) 1966 Das Island Abu Dhabi oil dispute.
74) 1966 Seychelles Suppression of riots against detachment of island possessions.
75) 1967 Hong Kong Suppression of Red Guard riots.
76) 1967 Libya Guarding oil installations and preventing coup against King Idris.
77) 1968 Bermuda State of Emergency.
78) 1968 Mauritius State of Emergency.
79) 1969 Antigua Operation Sheepskin against a civil uprising.
80) 1969 Anguilla Suppression of uprising.
81) 1969 onwards North of Ireland Suppression of revolt – between 1969 and 2001 3,523 people were killed and 710 British serving troops.
82) 1970 Cayman Islands Suppress opposition to colonial rule.
83) 1970 British Honduras (Belize) Guatemalan invasion threat.
84) 1970 Jordan ‘Black September’ Operation Shoveller to protect King Hussein against an uprising in support of the Palestinians under attack from Jordanian troops. This was a critical intervention shaping the Middle East henceforward.
85) 1971-76 Dhofar (Oman) Suppression of socialist-led revolt.
86) 1972 Bomb scare on Queen Elizabeth II.
87) 1972-73 North Atlantic ‘Cod war II’ Iceland extends territorial waters from 12 to 50 miles.
88) 1973 Egypt RAF moves UN troops after Yom Kippur war.
89) Pakistan/Bangladesh Operation Lucan RAF assist in exchange of refugees.
90) 1973 Bermuda British governor and his assistant assassinated, State of Emergency imposed. Alleged assassin hung, although the death penalty was abolished in Britain it continued in the colonies.
91) 1974 Malta Defence of British bases during anti-crown disturbances. Premier Dom Mintoff declares Malta a republic and negotiates end of bases by 1979.
92) 1974 Falkland Islands/Malvinas Tensions over possession with Argentinian government.
93) 1974 Kuwait.
94) 1974 Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean) Removal of population. Labour government purchased the Chagos Islands from Mauritius for £3 million.
95) 1974 Gibraltar.
96) 1974 Cyprus Operation Ablant evacuation of British nationals after Turkey invades.
97) 1975-76 North Atlantic ‘Cod war III’ Iceland extends territorial waters from 50 to 200 miles.
98) 1977 British Honduras (Belize) Guatemala invades.
99) 1977 Somalia British Special Forces support their West German counterparts at Mogadishu airport after the Red Army Faction hijack a Boeing 737.
100) 1978 Lebanon Supporting UN force; transporting Fijian troops via Tel Aviv en route to Lebanon.
101) 1979 Iran Revolution Evacuation of westerners.
102) 1979-84 Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
103) 1980 New Hebrides Operation Titan Suppression of civil unrest by Royal Marines.
104) 1982 Falklands Islands/Malvinas war against Argentina.
105) 1982 Egypt Part of UN force stationed in Sinai.
106) 1983 Lebanon stationed in Beirut.
107) 1983 Aden/Yemen Evacuation of British nationals.
108) 1986 Gibraltar Reinforcement of air defences after US bombed Libya.
109)1986 Cyprus Reinforcement of Akrotiri base after US bombed Libya.
110) 1987-88 Dubai Persian Gulf minesweeping by Royal Navy and RAF.
111) 1988 Gibraltar SAS assassinate three Provisional IRA volunteers.
112)1991 Gulf War I.
113) 1991-2003 Iraq RAF bombing raids and enforcement of no-fly zones.
114)1992-2008 (Bosnia) Yugoslavia.
115) 1994 Yemen Evacuation of embassy.
116)1994 Kuwait Operation Driver to reinforce British garrison and warn Iraqi regime against invasion.
117)1995 Angola Operation Chantress with UN after civil war.
118)1997 Congo Operation Determinate to evacuate British nationals caught up in civil war.
119) 1998 Congo Operation Ladbrook to evacuate British nationals.
120) 1999 onwards Kosovo with NATO force.
121) 1999 East Timor Part of UN contingent.
122) 2000 East Timor With UN force.
123) 2000 Sierra Leone Intervention in civil war and attacks on Gambia.
124) 2001 Macedonia Operation Essential Harvest to disarm Albanian irregular troops.
125) 2001 onwards Afghanistan.
126) 2003-11 Iraq War.
127) 2003 Congo Operation Coral with the UN on ‘stabilisation duties’.
128) 2003 Sierra Leone Operation Keeling to retrieve British soldiers captured by ‘West End Boys’.
129) 2004 Cote D’Ivoire Operation Phillis to evacuate British nationals.
130) 2011 Libya to evacuate British nationals.
131) 2011 Libya NATO removal of Gaddafi-led government.
132) 2012 Nigeria Attempted hostage release.
133) 2012 Jordan Support and training for forces opposed to Syrian government.
134) 2012 onwards Bosnia Herzegovina as part of EUFOR Operation Althea.
135) 2012-13 Somalia Fighting al-Shabab
136) 2013 Mali Support for French occupation force.
137) 2014 onwards Iraq Part of anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations.
138) 2015 onwards Part of UN contingent supporting the African Union fighting al-Shabab.
139) 2015 onwards Syria Part of anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations.


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