Operation Vantage

Operation Vantage was a British military operation in 1961 to support the newly independent state of Kuwait against territorial claims by its neighbour, Iraq. The UK reacted to a call for protection from Sheikh Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah of Kuwait, and air, sea and land forces were in place within days. Iraq did not attack and the British forces were replaced by the Arab League. Iraq recognised Kuwaiti independence in 1963.

Operation Vantage 1961
Part of Iraq-Kuwait relations and the 1961 Independence of Kuwait
HMS Victorious (R38) aerial c1959.jpeg
HMS Victorious taking part in Operation Vantage in support of Kuwait in July 1961.
Date1 July 1961
Result Iraq recognised Kuwait in 1963
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders

Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah
Mubarak Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Saleh Mohammed Al-Sabah
United KingdomBritish Armed Forces

Abd al-Karim Qasim

HM's British Armed Forces

Kuwait Army, Air Force
Iraqi Armed Forces


In 1958, Abdul Karim Qasim seized power in Iraq. He was seen by western powers as unpredictable and Iraq as unstable. On 25 June 1961, following Britain's relinquishing authority in Kuwait, Qasim announced that Kuwait would be incorporated into Iraq and the military threat was seen, by Britain, as imminent.[1] The reasons for Iraqi belligerence are debatable, but as well as the political gain to be accrued from a successful military campaign, Kuwait's assets at the time included possible oil reserves (confirmed later) and secure access to the sea, which Iraq lacked.


After borders were sealed and defense mounted by Mubarak Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and his deputy Colonel Sheikh Saleh Mohammed Al-Sabah against the anticipated invasion, Brigadier General Sheikh Mubarak advised Kuwait's 11th Ruler and 1st Emir Sheikh Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah to invoke Section 4 of the independence agreement, which stated that Kuwait could ask Britain for military support, which was done on 30 June 1961.

Britain had accepted responsibility for Kuwait's military protection[1] and quickly sent a strong naval task force, which included Royal Marines from 42 Commando, on HMS Bulwark, aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (subsequently relieved by HMS Centaur), destroyers HMS Camperdown, HMS Finisterre, HMS Saintes and HMS Cassandra, frigates HMS Chichester F59 HMS Loch Fyne, HMS Loch Ruthven, HMS Loch Insh, HMS Llandaff, HMS Yarmouth, and HMS Lincoln, amphibious landing ship HMS Messina, and the 108th Minesweeper Squadron.

The Royal Air Force sent 2 Canberra Reconnaissance aircraft, of 13 Squadron based in Cyprus, which flew daily sorties to photograph the border.

A troop of 42 Commando arrived by helicopter from Bulwark at the airport as a squadron of Hawker Hunters arrived.[2] By 1 July Britain had half of a brigade group in Kuwait ready for action. These included 42 and 45 Marine Commandos and two companies of 2nd Coldstream Guards. 3rd Carabiniers' "C" squadron landed with their Centurion tanks from HMS Striker. The two Commando groups occupied high ground on and around Mitla Ridge, near the Iraqi border, in fierce summer heat. Brigadier Derek Horsford, Commander, 24th Infantry Brigade Group was rushed from Kenya to Kuwait to take command of the assembled British land forces.

In the following days, there were further reinforcements; an artillery battery of the 33rd Parachute Field Regiment, and the 11th Hussars with Ferret scout cars; 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment arrived after a delay through difficulties over-flying Turkey. On 4 July, the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 34th Field Squadron arrived from Kenya. The Inniskillings and the 1st Battalion, The King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool) relieved 42 and 45 Commandos on 6 and 7 July. There more reinforcements from the UK.[3]

The Kuwaiti combat contingent was led by Brigadier General Mubarak and Colonel Saleh Mohammed Al-Sabah who later commanded the Kuwait 25th Commando Brigade and the Kuwait 6th Mechanized Brigade.


The Arab League took over the protection of Kuwait and the British had withdrawn their forces by 19 October.[3] Qasim was killed in a coup in 1963 but, although Iraq recognised Kuwaiti independence and the military threat was perceived to be reduced, Britain continued to monitor the situation and kept forces available to protect Kuwait until 1971. There had been no Iraqi military action against Kuwait at the time: this was attributed to the political and military situation within Iraq which continued to be unstable.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Mobley, Richard A. (2007–2008). "Gauging the Iraqi Threat to Kuwait in the 1960s - UK Indications and Warning". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 17 Jan 2010.
  2. ^ White, Christopher J; Robinson, Peter (2008–2010). "Gulf War Part 1: Operation Vantage". Historical RFA. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 16 Jan 2010.
  3. ^ a b James Paul & Martin Spirit; Robinson, Peter (2008). "Kuwait: The first crisis 1961". Riots, Rebellions, Gunboats and Peacekeepers. Retrieved 17 Jan 2010.