Operation Granby Gulf War

Remembering The Gulf War: Swift & Effective, But Unfinished?

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the small oil-producing country, using a military that was the fourth largest in the world at the time...

Operation Granby Gulf War

As the 1980s faded into history and we got excited about the 90s, few had heard of the small emirate of Kuwait.

But that all changed on 2nd August 1990.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded the small oil-producing country, using a military that was the fourth largest in the world at the time.

Within 12 hours, most resistance had ended in Kuwait and the Royal Family had fled.

The world condemned the invasion, but what should be done?

Soldiers On Op Granby Gulf War

For six months, a game of diplomatic ping-pong was played. Proposals were made and ignored. Further proposals were agreed and still ignored.

There looked to be only one way to go - the military route.

While the diplomacy was ongoing, the build-up of coalition forces was underway.

The US, Saudi Arabia, France and Kuwait were the main players, alongside the United Kingdom.

The British Army began intensive troop training in the UK and Germany before shipping out forces en-masse.

53,462 personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force were deployed, with the first RAF Tornados arriving in the region just nine days after the invasion.

But aside from training and acclimatisation, it was a waiting game.

Many troops told BFBS Television at the time that they had little to do and just wanted to "get going":

The bulk of the troops came from BAOR – The British Army of the Rhine – in Germany.

To keep them in contact with their loved ones, a BFBS Radio Station was set-up in Saudi Arabia, linking back to studios in Germany.

This was especially useful as Christmas 1990 came and went.

Operation Desert Storm finally began on the night of January 16th, 1991, with an extensive aerial bombing campaign.

For 42 consecutive days and night, the bombs and missiles fell. 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped from 100,000 sorties.

Tornado Aircraft Operation Granby Gulf War

The British codenamed the action "Operation Granby".

The first priority was the destruction of Iraq's Air Force and anti-aircraft facilities, to ensure the coalition's control of the sky.

Then came command and communication facilities, followed by the largest phase, military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait.

The RAF flew 2,500 sorties, primarily utilising Jaguar and Tornado aircraft. Seven Jets were lost, killing five air crew.

Iraq's primary response was to fire missiles at its enemies, including Israel. They fired 88 scuds during the seven-week campaign.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy used its Lynx helicopters to destroy nearly the entire Iraqi Navy.

British minesweepers cleared mines near the Kuwaiti coast, while HMS Gloucester successfully destroyed an Iraqi silkworm missile.

Once Iraq had been pounded - physically and mentally - the ground phase started.

British SAS troops were reportedly the first into action, with the main attack beginning on February 24, 1991.

The UK's 1st Armoured Division took part in a huge "left-hook" manoeuvre, which outflanked Iraqi forces. British Challenger tanks destroyed around 300 Iraqi vehicles.

After four days of fighting, Iraqi forces were cleared from Kuwait, scorching the earth as they went, setting light to nearly 700 oil wells.

Just 100 hours after the land campaign started, US President George Bush declared a ceasefire.

Even at the time, some believed ending it there was strange. Why not finish the job and get rid of Saddam?

Regime change, though, was not the objective. Nor was it mandated by the UN.

It meant that although weakened and under heavy sanctions, Saddam remained in power.

12 years later, the UK and other allies would be back in Iraq.