Operation Telic

From Academic Kids

Operation Telic is the codename under which all British operations of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and after are being conducted. A total of 46,000 troops of all the British Services were committed to the operation at its start. At the peak of the campaign, some 26,000 British Army soldiers, 4,000 Royal Marines marines, 5,000 Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors, and 8,100 Royal Air Force airmen were in action.



Operation Telic is one of the largest deployments of British forces since WWII. It is only approached in size by the 1991 Operation Granby deployment for the Gulf War and the 1956 Operation Musketeer Suez Crisis deployment. It is considerably larger than the 1982 Operation Corporate in the Falklands War, which saw around 30,000 personnel deployed, and the Korean War, which saw fewer than 20,000 personnel deployed.

Some 9,500 of the British servicemen and women who deployed on Operation Telic for the invasion and its immediate aftermath were reservists, the vast majority of them from the Territorial Army.

Notice that British forces were deploying to the region was given in three separate Commons statements by Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence. On 7 January, the deployment of the naval forces was announced, along with the Royal Marines component. 20 January saw the land forces deployment announced, and 6 February the air forces. The forces were all in place in time for hostilities to start on 19 March. When compared with the deployment of forces prior to the Gulf War, things proceeded a great deal faster, with the slowest deploying elements taking 10 weeks to get from base to warfighting condition in theatre.

In total, the deployment used 64 British and foreign flagged merchant vessels.

Command structure

The force was commanded by a three star tri-service headquarters. The commander of the operation was Air Marshal Brian Burridge, with Major General Peter Wall acting as his Chief of Staff. The headquarters was situated at CENTCOM headquarters in Qatar. The three services each had two star commanders heading up operations.

The Royal Navy commander was Rear Admiral David Snelson, who had his headquarters ashore in Qatar. The afloat Royal Navy commander was Commodore Jamie Miller, who had the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal as his flagship.

The British 1st Armoured Division was commanded by Major General Robin Brims. Three army brigades were assigned to the division. 16 Air Assault Brigade was commanded by Brigadier 'Jacko' Page, 7 Armoured Brigade by Brigadier Graham Binns, and 102 Logistics Brigade by Brigadiar Shaun Cowlam. The Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade was also under the operational command of the division and was commanded by Brigadier Jim Dutton.

The Royal Air Force commander was Air Vice Marshal Glenn Torpy. Major General Wall took over command of 1st Armoured Division on 1 May 2003. He was replaced as Chief of Staff by Major General Barney White-Spunner. Rear Admiral Snelson was succeeded by Major General Tony Milton, Commandant of the Royal Marines, as maritime forces commander on 16 April 2003.


Missing image
HMS Ark Royal returning to Portsmouth after the end of the war.

On 11 July 2003, 1st Armoured Division handed control over south-east Iraq to 3rd Mechanised Division, meaning that Major General Wall was succeeded by Major General Graham Lamb as commander of British ground forces in Iraq. Unlike during the war, by then, there was a substantial presence from many nations, other than America, Britain, Australia and Poland. In addition to British troops, 3rd Division now commanded Italian, Dutch, Danish, Czech, Norwegian and New Zealand forces. 3rd Division handed over a new composite divisional headquarters on 28 December 2003. Major General Andrew Stewart took over from General Lamb as commander of British forces.

After the end of hostilities, the major components of the British forces changed greatly. 3 Commando Brigade was withdrawn in early May, and 16 Air Assault Brigade left later in the same month apart from a couple infantry battalions. 7 Armoured Brigade remained until relieved by 19 Mechanised Brigade at the same time as 3rd Division took over from 1st Division. 102 Logistics Brigade was relieved by 101 Logistics Brigade in late May. Most of the RAF aircraft left the area, with a few retained for patrols over Iraq and support of ground forces. British naval forces also returned to more usual levels, with two surface combatants, a tanker, and a repair ship present in early July. A further rotation of ground troops occurred in November 2003, with 19 Mechanised Brigade relieved by 20 Armoured Brigade; 20 Armoured Brigade in its turn being relieved by 1 Mechanised Brigade. In April 2004, 20 Armoured Brigade turned over its responsibilities to 1 Mechanised Brigade, and Lieutenant General John McColl was appointed deputy commander of occupation ground forces. By July 2004 the British area saw its fifth commander, when Major General Bill Rollo took over. At the end of 2004 General Rollo was succeeded by Major General Jonathan Riley and in November of that year 4 Armoured Brigade rotated in to replace 1 Mechanised Brigade.

In May 2005 4 Armoured Brigade was replaced by 12 Mechanised Brigade with the handover of responsibility taking place on 30 May.


For full details about the UK's contribution, please see the Operation Telic order of battle

The conflict saw over 100 fixed wing aircraft and over 100 rotary wing aircraft of virtually every type in the British inventory deployed. It also saw a 33 ship fleet, which was the largest taskforce deployed by the UK since the Falklands War. Some 120 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, 150 Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, 32 AS-90 self propelled 155mm howitzers, and 36 105mm towed howitzers were deployed with the land forces, along with reconnaissance vehicles, and everything else that makes a modern mechanised and armoured force function.

For further information about British casualties see British casualties in Operation Telic.

External Links

Campaign Medal for Operation Telic (


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