A Sea King fires flares after dropping 40 Commando ashore at Al Faw
A Sea King fire flares after dropping 40 Commando ashore at Al Faw in 2003 (Picture: Royal Navy).
Royal Marines

Iraq operation officially recognised as one of finest moments in recent history for Royal Marines

A Sea King fires flares after dropping 40 Commando ashore at Al Faw
A Sea King fire flares after dropping 40 Commando ashore at Al Faw in 2003 (Picture: Royal Navy).

Twenty years on, the Royal Marines can now formally add another illustrious date to their history.

Two decades ago, Royal Marine Commandos stormed the sands of Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein's key oil region.

The assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula saw a complex amphibious operation launched from Kuwait and HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean – stationed in the northern Gulf.

The attack led to the collapse of the Iraqi Army, the fall of the country's second city and prevented an ecological catastrophe.

The Royal Marines have accrued so many battle honours in the 350 years since they were formed, only the capture of the Rock of Gibraltar adorns their regimental cap.

The sheer number of additional honours won are symbolised by the globe, bestowed on the corps by King George IV in 1827.

Watch: Eight years of UK's mission in Iraq on Op Shader.

But the Royal Marines formally mark 10 key 'memorable days', commemorating an event of significant importance to their history.

The most recent was the liberation of the Falkland Islands, but now King Charles, the new Captain General of the Royal Marines, has been informed of an 11th – the Assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula.

General Gwyn Jenkins, Commandant General of the Royal Marines, said the assault is "an example of Royal Marine operations of the highest order".

"A true representation of the Commando mindset, it was executed with skill, precision, and utmost professionalism," he said.

"Commandos, once again, demonstrated the importance of being ready to operate, fight and win in the face of complexity and uncertainty and it is absolutely fitting that on this, the 20th anniversary, it be marked in our regimental history as a corps memorable date."

Watch: How Hearts and Minds became a very British tactic.

The Assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula

The Al-Faw peninsula was home to the bulk of Iraq’s oil fields and infrastructure, as well as the country's only deep-water port.

The rapid capture of the peninsula deprived Saddam Hussein of any oil revenue and prevent a scorched earth policy - destroying the facilities and causing an ecological disaster, as occurred in Kuwait in 1991.

The assault was led by Brigadier Jim Dutton saw 2,000 personnel, 80 helicopters and amphibious shipping take part.

Two weeks later, the assault's success culminated in the fall of Basra and Royal Marines occupying Saddam Hussein's palace in the city.

The operation also led to substantial losses being inflicted on the enemy, hundreds of prisoners taken – including senior officers – key oil installations seized, aid shipments being delivered to Umm Qasr port, and the demoralisation of the Iraqi Army in the south of the country.

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