Gulf War Part 1: Operation Vantage



In 1961, the President of Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qasim, had claimed that Kuwait was part of his country and he announced that Iraq was going to annexe Kuwait.



President of Iraq, Abd al-Karim Qasim


On 27 June the Amir of Kuwait asked the government of Saudi Arabia and Great Britain for help.  With the news that the Iraqi’s were amassing a large armoured brigade in preparation for a rapid dash over the border, the then Commander in Chief Middle East, Air Marshal Sir Charles Elworthy  answered the call and prepared to send troops and equipment to the beleaguered country.





Air Marshal Sir Charles Elworthy

From the Far East and Middle East Commands he borrowed spearhead units and from Malta a minesweeping squadron.



Royal Marines from 42 Commando, embarked on HMS Bulwark were en-route from the Far East, where she had been carrying out hot weather trials, and when the threat was reported, HMS Bulwark was actually in Karachi, from where she sailed on the 29 June, arriving shortly afterwards and “Charlie” troop of 42 Commando, Royal Marines was landing at Kuwait’s new airport, rapid roping down from their helicopters in the middle of a sand storm, and almost at the same time a squadron of RAF Hunter aircraft were landing.



HMS Bulwark



HMS Victorious


More units were to join them shortly to answer the threat from across the border, including a large naval presence, amongst which were 9 RFA’s.

2 Para was sent from Cyprus, but were delayed by a refusal of the Turkish Government to allow them to overfly that country.  Two companies of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards who were on detachment to Bahrain were also sent to Kuwait with half of the 3rd Dragoon Guards an armoured regiment, not long after they were joined by hundreds more British troops.

The Royal Navy element of this task group were the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious, relieved later by HMS Centaur, HMS Bulwark, the destroyers HMS’s Camperdown, Finnisterre, Saintes and Cassandra, the frigates HMS’s Loch Fyne, Loch Ruthven, Loch Insh, Llandaff, Yarmouth, and Lincoln and the LST HMS Messina, along with the 108th Minesweeper Squadron from Malta.

loch fyne

HMS Loch Fyne


To support this operation the following RFA’s were deployed to the region; tankers  RFA’s Wave Master, Wave Ruler, Orangeleaf and Pearleaf and store ships RFA Fort Constantine, Fort Dunvegan, Fort Sandusky, Retainer and Reliant.



RFA Wave Master


RFA Wave Ruler




RFA Retainer


RFA Reliant


The RFA tankers would have supplied fuel and stores to the fleet assembled off Kuwait as well as stores and ammunition to the troops ashore, in addition to this it had been found that large quantities of water were required by the troops ashore, who were consuming up to 20 pints a day each, the water was flown ashore by helicopter from HMS Bulwark.

Whilst this was going on, the Arab League had managed to gather enough support to take over the protection of Kuwait and by the middle of October the British forces had completed a withdrawal from the country.