To celebrate the end of the year, I have been researching the history of the British at war in the last century, the living memory of my country.
- According to my findings, in the last 100 years the British have been at war in every year bar 17.
- That’s 83 years of conflict.
- And in each of those 17 years of ‘peace’ we have been the occupying power in one or more countries.
- During those 100 years, we have been involved in at least 34 conflicts, lasting a total of around 200 years.
Here’s a list of those conflicts, divided by decade, with casualty estimates in brackets:
1914-1918 World War I (39 million dead)
1916-1916 Easter Rising (Ireland, 400 dead)
1918-1922 Russian Civil War
1919-1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War (3,000 dead)
1919-1921 Anglo-Irish War (2,000 dead)
1919-1923 Turkish War of Independence
1924-1935 Peace? Ongoing British occupation of Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and India, among others.
1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine (5,000 dead)
1937-1945 The Pacific War
1938-1948 British-Zionist Conflict (Palestine, at least 1,000 dead)
1939-1945 World War II (73 million dead)
1941-1941 Anglo-Iraqi War (600 dead)
1941-1949 Greek Civil War (16,000 dead)
1948-1960 Malayan Emergency (10,000 dead)
1950-1953 Korean War (2.3 million dead)
1952-1960 Mau Mau Uprising (Kenya, 14,000 dead)
1955-1959 Cyprus Emergency (400 dead)
1956-1957 Suez Crisis (3,000 dead)
1958-1958 First Cod War (Iceland)
1961-1961 Peace? Kuwait and Tanganyika win their independence from British rule.
1962-1962 Brunei Revolt
1962-1966 Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (800 dead)
1962-1975 Dhofar Rebellion (Oman)
1963-1967 Aden Emergency (Yemen)
1968-1998 Northern Ireland Troubles (3,500 dead)
1972-1973 Second Cod War (Iceland)
1975-1976 Third Cod War (Iceland)
1982-1982 Falklands War (Argentina, 1,000 dead)
1990-1991 First Gulf War (Iraq, at least 25,000 dead)
1995-1996 Bosnian War (100,000 dead)
1998-1998 Operation Desert Fox (Iraq, at least 600 dead)
1998-1999 Kosovo War (Yugoslavia, 10,000 dead)
2000-2002 Sierra Leone Civil War
2001-???? Global War on Terror
2001-???? Afghanistan War (50,000 dead and counting)
2003-2009 Iraq War and Iraqi Insurgency (at least 60,000 dead)
I am certain that I have excluded many conflicts that you may consider suitable for this list. I have been unable to source a list of British combat casualties for the last 100 years myself, but John Pilger, a journalist and documentary film-maker, reports that 16,000 British service men and women have died in action since 1948.
That is quite remarkable for a country that has not been under any military threat in the sixty-five years since the end of World War II.
I hope that this information has the effect on others that it had on me: shock and awe. How dare I hope to live in a civilised society, when that society is so intimate with war and slaughter?