Battles involving England - After Second World War

The break-up of the British Empire
The Troubles in Northern Ireland
Falklands War 1982
Gulf War 1990-1991
War in Afghanistan
Iraq war
British songs about conflict in the late twentieth century

The Break-up of the British Empire

In Victorian times, the British empire spanned the world and was described as "the empire on which the sun never sets." But Britain was impoverished by the Second World War, and fast losing political power to the United States of America and the USSR (Communist Russia). Britain could no longer afford the military might to control the empire, and was being challenged by many of its peoples to grant them independence. The British Commonwealth

Mahatma Gandhi had waged a peaceful campaign for Indian independence before the Second World War. In 1947, India became free, but tensions between the largely Muslim north and the largely Hindu rest of India created the partition of India, into Pakistan and modern India. This caused large movements of population and many deaths. The relationship between India and Pakistan is still bad.

Large parts of Africa were ruled by Britain as part of the British Empire. There were rebellions such as Mau Mau Uprising (1952-1960). These countries now govern themselves. Some remain successful democracies, others are less successful.

Australia, New Zealand and Canada also govern themselves, yet have the British monarch as their monarch. There are republican movements in these countries, though.

Gandhi visits 10, Downing Street, London, in 1931
Gandhi in Downing Street, London, 1931

The Troubles in Northern Ireland

The relationship between Ireland and England have been troubled for centuries. In 1916, the Easter Rising and its consequences led to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. Northern Ireland (otherwise known as Ulster) decided to stay as part of the United Kingdom. This caused conflict between the Unionists (mostly Protestant) and the Nationalists (mostly Catholic) who wished to leave. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Unionist terrorists conducted violent campaigns to impose their views. A mostly peaceful demonstration in Derry was fired on by British soldiers in a controversial event called Bloody Sunday. There were various bombings; the last serious one was the Omagh bombing in 1998.

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process, and there is progress, if slow, towards the different communities working together to govern themselves.

One of the injured is carried to safety, Bloody Sunday, 1972
One of the injured is carried to safety, Bloody Sunday, 1972
Omagh bombing by the Real Irish Republican Army in 1998
Omagh bombing by the Real Irish Republican Army in 1998

Falklands War 1982 (location)

Argentina claimed the Falkland Islands (which they call the Islas Malvinas), a small group of islands in the south Atlantic. In 1982, General Galtieri, President of Argentina, ordered the invasion of the Falklands and South Gorgia, which was successful as there were few troops on the islands and no naval protection. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain, ordered the British Task Force to sail to the Falklands and they successfully retook the islands. The war was covered by British media present with the troops. Brian Hanrahan, a BBC correspondent, forbidden to describe the number of British planes accurately, said "I counted them all out, and I counted them all back." He meant that none had been downed, as claimed by the Argentinians. There were casulties at Battle of Goose Green, and British ships were sunk by the Argentian airforce, but the British victory restored a sense of military pride in Britain which may have had an effect both in British politics and future combat.

British troops yomp (march with heavy load over difficult ground) to Port Stanley in the Falklands war, 1982
British troops yomp (march with heavy load over difficult ground) to Port Stanley in the Falklands war, 1982

Gulf War 1990-1991 (location)

Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, was aggressive towards his neighbours. Border disputes with Iran led to the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. A series of UN Security Council resolutions and Arab League resolutions were passed opposing this, giving Iraq a withdrawal deadline, and authorizing the use of force if Iraq failed to comply. George Bush Senior, President of the United States, assembled a coalition of forces from 34 countries including Britain. John Major was Prime Minister of Britain at this time. The conflict was known as the Gulf War, the military name was Desert Storm, while Saddam Hussein called it the Mother of All Battles.The coalition successfully drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait. When the Iraqis withdrew, they set fire to the oil wells of Kuwait, which destroyed oil and caused pollution. One of the men who put out these fires was the American oil well firefighter, Red Adair.

The coalition decided not to invade Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but the Americans encouraged Iraqis to rebel against him. There was deep-seated opposition to Saddam Hussein within Iraq by Shi'ite Moslems, and by Kurds. They did rebel, but Saddam Hussein put down the rebellions and carried out harsh reprisals.

Kuwaiti oil wells set alight by retreating Iraqi forces in the Gulf War, 1991
Kuwaiti oil wells set alight by retreating Iraqi forces in the Gulf War, 1991

War in Afghanistan (location)

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists mounted attacks on prominent American buildings. They boarded planes flying close to these buildings, then rushed the cockpits, took over the controls and flew the planes into the buildings. The most spectacular and damaging attack was two planes flying into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, destroying the planes, causing fires in the buildings, and eventually the buildings to collapse. Another plane crashed in the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed when the plane's passengers attacked the terrorists in their turn. There were nearly three thousand deaths caused by this, including firefighters trying to fight the fire in the Twin Towers and caught in the buildings when they collapsed. These attacks are known as 9/11, since they took place on 9/11/2001 (written the American way) and 911 is the American emergency phone number.

George Bush junior, President of the United States of America, declared a War on Terrorism, which led to the War in Afghanistan, and later the Iraq war.

Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban, an extreme Sunni Islamist political movement who haboured al-Qaeda terrorists. Following the September 11 attacks, the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom, a military campaign to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan. The United States also threatened to overthrow the Taliban government for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Britain, supplied troops to help the American. The United States also joined with Afghan opponents of the Taliban, including the Northern Alliance. In 2001, they seized Kabul and overthrew the Taliban, with many local warlords switching allegiance from the Taliban to the Northern Alliance.

While the Taliban were driven out of Kabul, they remained in Afghanistan. Fighting is still continuing, with American and British troops still stationed there.

Twin towers of the World Trade Center attacked in 2001
Twin towers of the World Trade Center attacked in 2001

Iraq war (location)

Saddam Hussein had survived the Gulf War (see above) and in fact even claimed that he had won it. He boasted of having weapons of mass distruction. He refused to let United Nations inspectors look at his weapons to check that he did not have a nuclear facility. The United States of America and Britain were worried about this, as Saddam Hussein had shown his aggression in the past, and the situation in the Middle East and Israel was bad enough without adding nuclear weapons into it. Some American officials also accused Saddam Hussein of supporting al-Qaeda, but no real evidence was ever found. Other proclaimed reasons for the invasion included Iraq's financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Iraqi government human rights abuses, and an effort to spread democracy to Iraq.

Tony Blair tried to get a United Nations resolution to provide the level of support that the Gulf War had had, but failed. Despite this, he agreed to back George Bush junior in an Iraq war. Other countries also contributed troops, but international support was less wide-spread than before. The war started in 2003.

The United States said that it was going to use 'shock and awe' to overcome the Iraq government. They and they allies invaded Iraq and soon captured Baghdad. Saddam Hussein fled, was captured and eventually executed by the new Iraqi government.

However, there were problems afterwards. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. There was wide-spread attacks for religious reasons as Shi'ites and Sunnis attacked for revenge or to gain power. The Americans found it hard to keep control, to rebuild the country and to establish a democratic and stable government. They tried a 'troop surge' in 2007, which had some effect. The new president, Barrack Obama, promises to bring American troops home eventually. British troops withdrew in 2009.

Saddam Hussein's statue pulled down in the Iraq war, 2003
Saddam Hussein's statue pulled down in the Iraq war, 2003



Revolution

Written by Lennon/McCartney of the Beatles and released as the B side of 'Hey Jude' in 1968.

You say you want a revolution.
Well, you know,
We all want to change the world.
You tell me that it's evolution.
Well, you know,
We all want to change the world.
But when you talk about destruction,
Don't you know that you can count me out.
Don't you know it's gonna be all right,
All right, all right.

You say you got a real solution.
Well, you know,
We'd all love to see the plan.
You ask me for a contribution,
Well, you know,
We're doing what we can.
But when you want money
For people with minds that hate,
All I can tell is, brother you have to wait.
Don't you know it's gonna be all right,
All right, all right.

You say you'll change the constitution.
Well, you know,
We all want to change your head.
You tell me it's the institution.
Well, you know,
You better free you mind instead.
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao,
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.
Don't you know it's gonna be all right,
All right, all right,
All right, all right, all right,
Al right, all right, all right.

Free Nelson Mandela

Written by J. Dammers and released as single by The Special A.K.A. in 1984. Nelson Mandela was released in 1990.

Free Nelson Mandela,
Free, free, free Nelson Mandela,
Free Nelson Mandela.

Twenty one years in captivity,
His shoes too small to fit his feet,
His body abused, but his mind is still free.
Are you so blind that you cannot see?

I say, free Nelson Mandela!
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela!

He pleaded the causes of the ANC,
Only one man in a large army.
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea?

Free Nelson Mandela!
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela!

Twenty one years in captivity -
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
Are you so deaf that you cannot hear?
Are you so dumb that you cannot speak?

I say, free Nelson Mandela!
I'm begging you, free Nelson Mandela, free Nelson Mandela!
I'm begging you, begging you,
Please, free Nelson Mandela, free Nelson Mandela!
I'm telling you, you've got to free Nelson Mandela.

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