As with other Gulf States, we started off by signing a maritime treaty with Kuwait. In 1841, they agreed not to attack local sheikhs at sea and to allow us to sort out disputes. Then we got into a battle for influence in the area with the Ottomans and, in this case, the Germans.
Kuwait had been pencilled in as the terminus of the proposed Berlin–Baghdad railway. We decided we would rather not have a direct line from Berlin to the Gulf, so in 1899 we entered into a treaty with Kuwait whereby we took control of Kuwait’s foreign policy and in return we protected Kuwait and gave it an annual subsidy.
In 1913 we were even given a monopoly on oil exploration and exploitation. We, however, missed out here in a fairly large way, since commercial exploitation of Kuwaiti oil didn’t really start until towards the end of our time in the country.
On 20 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent. Not wasting much time, on 25 June 1961, the then president of Iraq, President Qasim, declared that Kuwait was part of Iraq and he was going to annexe it. Amid fears that the Iraqis might send an armoured brigade into Kuwait, we went straight back. We rushed in troops, with forward units advancing to the strategically vital Mutla Ridge, only 5 miles from the Iraqi border. Eventually, the immediate crisis passed and as Arab League forces moved in to protect Kuwait, British forces pulled out, with the withdrawal complete by 19 October.
Then in the 1990s we were back when another Iraqi leader went a lot further down the path than Qasim. This time, on 2 August 1990, the Iraqi army did invade Kuwait. A coalition was formed to expel the Iraqis, with Britain playing a major part. We sent loads of armoured vehicles and about 43,000 ground forces personnel. We sent frigates and destroyers to the Gulf and we sent RAF squadrons. And we sent the SAS.
The air bombardment campaign started on 17 January 1991, and the ground assault began on 23 February. Coalition forces advanced rapidly to liberate Kuwait and 100 hours after the start of the ground campaign, a ceasefire was declared.