It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For years, we have been told how we’ve been living in a time of peace and that there hasn’t been a global conflict since the end of the Second World War. But in reality, there has been a constant stream of conflict throughout the years.
The UK has been involved in a whopping 33 conflicts since the end of World War II. Some of them are more memorable and fresh in the minds of the population, such as the Iraq War and Afghanistan. But other wars and conflicts are becoming lost to history. So, here is one conflict from each decade after the end of World War II that has been covered by the sands of time.
1950s: The Suez Crisis
In today’s world, a canal seems like a pretty mundane form of transportation. But back in the 1950s, if you controlled the Suez Canal, you could potentially control the world. With relations between Egypt and Britain becoming strained due to a coup in Egypt, the new leader of Egypt at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser, decided to nationalize and take control of the Suez Canal.
The British were extremely worried about losing the Suez Canal, as it was a vital point in the remains of its Empire. Without the canal, it was possible for the rest of the British Empire to fall. Because of this, the United Kingdom planned an invasion of Egypt with France and Israel.
On October 29, 1956 Israel invaded Egypt and was followed by the UK and France on November 5. Unfortunately, after a week of fighting and 16 British deaths, the conflict ended in a loss for the UK. Egypt was to retain its rights to the canal after international pressure from around the globe for Britain to withdraw.
1960s and 1970s: The Cod Wars
Lost in the time of the Cold War, is its much less heralded little brother, The Cod Wars. The Cod Wars was a conflict between Iceland and the UK about who had the rights to certain fishing spaces. And yes, that’s right, there were multiple Cod Wars.
The First Cod War lasted for three years, from September 1958 to March 1961. Iceland had staked its claim to an extra 8 nautical miles of sea fishery area and the UK was opposed to this measure. So, the British had their ships fish in the disputed area under the protection of warships, which led to confrontations between the British and Icelandic navies. Eventually in March 1961, an agreement was made by Britain and Iceland that Britain would have fishing rights in allocated zones and under certain seasons in the outer 6 nautical miles of the 12 nautical miles Iceland claimed for three years.
Twelve years later however, tempers flared again. The Second Cod War started in September 1972 and lasted until November 1973. This time, Iceland wanted to expand its fishery zone to 50 nautical miles. Again, Britain was opposed to this and by May was sending frigates to protect its fishing ships in Icelandic waters. This infuriated Iceland as protests erupted and ended with the vandalization of the British Embassy in Reykjavik.
An agreement was signed on November 8, 1973 which limited British fishing activities to certain areas within the 50 nautical mile limit. But, this agreement only lasted for just over two years.
The third and final Cod War went on from late 1975 to July 1976. It involved another Icelandic attempt to expand their fishing waters, this time to 200 nautical miles. The ensuing conflict between Britain and Iceland resulted in 55 rammings of ships and the eventual settlement with Iceland getting their extended fishing zones. It was a tense conflict, as on February 19, 1976 Iceland cut off all diplomatic relations with the UK.
1980s: Falklands War
A 10-week war between the UK and Argentina, this conflict ended in a victory for the British. The origin of the war was when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (territories belonging to the UK) in South America. Argentina claimed that the islands were theirs and tried to establish sovereignty over them.
The UK quickly responded by sending a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force. This was followed by an amphibious assault on the island that culminated in a victory for the UK. Subsequently, 649 Argentine military personnel and 255 British military personnel died during the war.
1990s: The Persian Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War was the first of a series of conflicts that the United Kingdom would be a part of post-1990 in the Middle East. The Gulf War began when on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and bombed Kuwait’s capital city, Kuwait City. In response, the United Nations passed a series of resolutions that created a coalition against Iraq and gave the Iraqis a deadline of January 15, 1991 to withdraw their troops.
When Iraq failed to withdraw its troops by the deadline, a coalition of 34 countries, including the United Kingdom, swung into action. Of all of the European countries, the United Kingdom comprised the largest contingent. In the war, the United Kingdom destroyed over 200 Iraqi tanks while also sustaining the most casualties (47) of the European nations involved.